NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In a move some consider an indication of what the public will come to expect of the Obama administration, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden have named three Asian Americans to the Obama-Biden Transition Team — Chris Lu, Sonal Shah and Pete Rouse.
Chris Lu, a Chinese American, was named as Transition Executive Director. Formerly he was President-elect Obama’s Legislative Director. A classmate of Obama at Harvard Law, Lu has been working for Obama since he took office as a U.S. Senator in 2005.
“I ended up on Capitol Hill, where I’ve always wanted to be,” Lu said in an interview.
According to an interview with the Daily Princetonian, Lu said his day-to-day responsibilities included handling “every bill that (Obama) introduce(d) and every vote that he (cast), every speech he (made), and how he (spent) every minute of every day.”
Lu describes his job as keeping the “trains running on time.”
In the same story, Mark Wenger, Lu’s roommate at Princeton for three years said, “Back in college, it was pretty clear that he was interested in a political career. I actually thought he would wind up as a senator.”
“He was an outstanding student. He always seemed to have all this extra time,” Wenger added. “He was a very socially astute person as well (and) always seemed to be connected with a lot of friends.”
Lu’s classmates said they remember not only his work ethic but also his congenial personality.
Wenger, who called Lu “a lifelong friend,” said his former roommate is “the nicest, most generous guy in the world.”
As for what Lu thinks of the man he’s working for: “(Obama is) as thoughtful and kind and decent and as intelligent a person as he is in private as he is in public,” Lu said. “I’m in awe of the man, and I think he’s going to be a fantastic president.”
Sonal Shah is an Indian American economist. She works for Google.org on its Global Development team but has temporarily taken leave from her position to serve on the advisory board for president-elect Barack Obama’s presidential transition team. Born in Mumbai, India, Shah came to the United States in 1972. She graduated from Alief Hastings High School and received a bachelors of arts degree in economics in 1990 from the University of Chicago. She went on to receive her master’s degree from Duke University, also in economics.
On Google.org’s Global Development team, she works on defining the company’s global development strategy. Prior to Google.org, she was vice president at Goldman, Sachs and Co. and developed and implemented the firm’s environmental strategy.
She is also the co-founder of Indicorps, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization offering one-year fellowships for Americans of Indian origin to work on specific development projects in India.
As the former Associate Director for Economic and National Security Policy at the Center for American Progress, Sonal worked on trade, outsourcing and post conflict reconstruction issues. Prior to joining the Center, she was the Director of Programs and Operations at the Center for Global Development managed the daily operations and served as a strategic adviser to the president.
She also developed and managed policy and advocacy programs for the Center. Before that she worked for eight years at the Department of Treasury on various economic issues and regions of the world. She was the Director of the office covering sub Saharan Africa, worked in Bosnia and Kosovo after the war, and served as the senior adviser to the Under Secretary and Assistant Secretary at the Department of Treasury during the Asian financial crisis.
Peter Rouse, of Japanese American descent was named to co-chair the Transition Team. He was formerly President-elect Obama’s Chief of Staff in the Senate.
“Pete’s very good at looking around the corners of decisions and playing out the implications of them,” Obama has said an interview. “He’s been around long enough that he can recognize problems and pitfalls a lot quicker than others can.”
They are somewhat of an unlikely pairing with generational differences. Rouse, 61, first started working in the Senate in 1971 — Obama was a 10-year-old in Hawaii then.
Pete Rouse is known as a fixer, a old pro in the world of Washington. The meticulous workaholic rose through three decades of unglamorous legislating to become arguably the most influential Democratic aide in the Senate when he worked for then-Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.).
“His familiarity with Washington makes him somebody whose judgment I trust,” Obama said in an interview. ♦