THE CHAO FAMILY:
cargo ship built for Foremost, and after that she was going to Qingdao, China, for the launching ceremony of another ship for Foremost. “Three additional cargo ships are under construction now,” said Chao.
Chao’s wife, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, died on August 2, 2007. They had been married for 56 years.
A country boy
“I came from a poor family and her family was very rich,’’ he said. “I was a country boy who was very active and energetic, such as using a camera and developing photos myself.’’
On June 6, 2016, all members of the Chao family were at the dedication ceremony of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao center at the Harvard Business School. Elaine Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was also there.
Chao asked for a cup of coffee after our lunch. No sugar. He was relaxed, gentle and graceful. I said that I believed he has nothing to worry about at this stage of his life.
“If a man has nothing to worry about, that would be boring,” Chao answered. “That means you are old, and you would have nothing to do with this world. My principle is, at young age, you should associate more with senior people, and you would benefit from their knowledge and experiences. At my age, I like to associate with young people. Doing so will keep you active and vigorous.”
Today, wealth is often used as a main indicator of success, but for Chao his daughters reflect a far more brilliant and longer-lasting success that he has achieved. And most people would agree that the core of the successful story of the Chao family is the daughters.
“They possess traditional filial piety,” said Chao. “Elaine always call me every night before I go to bed. If she can’t do it due to traveling or some other reason, she sends an email to me.”
On the eve of the inauguration of Donald Trump, Chao traveled to Washington again. He hosted a dinner for some old friends, including alumni of Shanghai Jiaotong University, his alma mater. Elaine and her husband attended, of whom she said, “I have been very blessed to have a wonderful supportive husband. He cooks. He does his own laundry.”
Holding her father’s hand, Elaine said emotionally: “Not many people have fathers or parents who are able to see them in whatever they do. My mother left on August 2, 2007. I am extraordinarily grateful that my father is able to be here and see so much of what his children have been able to accomplish.”
Visiting to Ferncliff
Now, every Saturday, Chao goes to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, about 25 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, where he pays respect to his wife. Soong Mei-ling, Chiang Kai-Shek’s wife, is also buried there. Chao prepares a cup of tea for her. The same thing he loved to do when she was alive.
“Winning her heart was the greatest achievement of my whole life,’’ he said.
Larry Lee is vice-chairman of China Daily Holding Co Ltd.He can be contacted at larrylee@ chinadailyusa.com.
The Chao family reunion in New York in 1961, when Elaine Chao was 8 years old.