February 2009 | By Jane Leung Larson
President Barack Obama nominated a Committee of 100 member, two-term Washington Governor Gary Locke, as Secretary of Commerce on February 25. If confirmed, Locke will be the first Chinese American to hold that post. Locke will be returning to a long career of public service after three years in the private sector, where he has headed the China practice for the law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, and also focused on energy, government relations and corporate diversity.
In the words of the President:
“That’s what Gary did in Washington state, convincing businesses to set up shop and create the jobs of the 21st century — jobs in science and technology; agriculture and energy — jobs that pay well and can’t be shipped overseas. That’s what he did by establishing favorable markets abroad where Washington state’s businesses could sell their products. That’s what he did by unleashing powerful partnerships between state and local governments, between labor and business — all with an eye toward prosperity and progress for all those in his state who had dreams of their own.”
Locke became the first Chinese American governor in American history, elected in 1996 and 2000, both times with 60% majorities. As Governor, Locke led eight trade missions to China and promoted the State of Washington through a representative office in Guangzhou. China became Locke’s primary focus during his tenure with Davis Wright, benefiting from the stature he gained as the top-ranking Chinese American politician. Locke’s selection as Commerce Secretary signals the importance of China to this Administration’s vision of our interlinked economies.
Locke has been a Committee member twice, for a short time while he was Governor and from 2005 to the present. His C-100 membership was noted in many of the news stories on Locke’s nomination. Committee Chairman John L. Fugh noted, “We agree with President Obama that Gary is the right man for the job as Commerce Secretary. His outstanding leadership skills and extensive experience in international trade and government relations are crucial for our nation to recover and prosper. We applaud his nomination.” Locke joins C-100 member Ivan K. Fong, who was recently nominated as General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and C-100 advisor Gen. Eric Shinseki, Obama’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Locke has told his family’s story repeatedly during his political career as a tribute to hard work, education and family support. He gave the much-noted Democratic Party response to President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union, and Obama echoed those words in his nomination speech:
“Gary didn’t learn English until he was five, but he earned the rank of Eagle Scout, worked his way through Yale University with the help of scholarships and student loans, and got a law degree. He returned to Washington state and served as a prosecutor, a state representative, chief executive of one of the most populous counties in the United States, and finally as governor — in the State Capitol building not one mile from the home where his grandfather worked as a servant all those years ago.”
Locke, who was an active supporter of the Obama presidential campaign, affirmed the Administration’s economic recovery strategies, and said:
“Americans are prepared to do the same today. They believe in your leadership, Mr. President, and want you to succeed because they want America to succeed. They want a better future for themselves and their children.”
Watch the nomination on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I1yLeKi_Ys
A few reactions to the nomination:
“Gary Locke is a bipartisan problem-solver who will bring his record of smart trade policy and fiscal responsibility to President Obama’s Cabinet.” Senator Harry Reid, Majority Leader
"He's well regarded in China and I think he's somebody they would listen to," John Frisbie, president of the U.S.-China Business Council.—Reuters
"He has a great relationship with the Washington state unions. He has a good understanding of the need to both promote exports, which is enormously important, and to make sure our trade laws are respected," [Thea] Lee [policy director, AFL-CIO] said.—Reuters
“If Governor Locke is chosen for commerce secretary, I think he would be phenomenal,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “Having a governor from a coastal state with a core understanding of what it takes to improve our economy would be most welcome and a tremendous asset.” [Senator Jay Rockefeller, chair of Senate Commerce Committee]—New York Times