She opens up about Gary’s new job, the Obamas, and the future of Komen
By Evangeline Café
Northwest Asian Weekly
More than 10 years ago, she left her successful career as a TV news reporter to join her husband on the campaign trail. Now, former Washington state first lady Mona Locke is taking another leap of faith for the other Washington as Gary Locke begins his new career as U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Locke. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to have this honor to work for the president of the United States.”
At the swearing-in ceremony for Secretary Locke on May 1, President Obama made the opening remarks and thanked Mona for the sacrifices she continues to make for her husband.
With the opening of one door comes the closing of another. This summer, Locke will leave her coveted post as executive director for Komen for the Cure’s Puget Sound affiliate in Seattle. Locke spent her year-and-a-half at Komen establishing new partnerships, cultivating new donors, and developing a strategic plan to guide the nonprofit organization over the next few years. She also helped the organization raise a record $2.3 million to go toward breast cancer research and local awareness efforts.
“She’s an amazing leader,” said Mai Nguyen, director of finance for Komen’s Puget Sound affiliate, who worked closely with Locke. “She’s done an amazing job at putting structure around an organization that grew from essentially four staff [members] to about 12 in less than two years.”
Nguyen said Locke also created a strong sense of family by taking the time to listen to and nurture workers and volunteers. “She’s really brought back that fun in volunteerism at Komen.”
Locke first became involved in nonprofits as the first lady when she created the Foundation for Early Learning. She says she loves the challenges and rewards that come with leading a mission-driven organization like Komen.
“I loved the people and their stories and getting to know them, as well as feeling like we were actually out there on the ground, saving lives through the money we raised,” said Locke. “I’m going to miss my co-workers and all the volunteers that have shared their life stories with me.”
Locke will continue to oversee and participate in this year’s Race for the Cure in Seattle on June 7.
Locke admits her time at Komen was short but says she feels ready to begin the next chapter in her life.
Her first priority upon moving to D.C. is getting her kids settled.
“I think it’s very difficult [for the kids] because we finally settled in Seattle after moving from Olympia. You know, they love their friends, and this is kind of their life and what they know. There’s so much uncertainty about the future.”
Locke plans to help her kids become comfortable with their new home.
“My goal is to move there in the summer and really work on transitioning the kids into their school, into their new lives, and making sure that they’re stable and that they’re happy before I start off on my new chapter,” she said.
Locke is unclear where her career will take her next, but she believes she will likely continue along a similar path.
“I will probably be working in a nonprofit … whose mission tugs at my heart strings, where I feel like I can really make a difference, whether it’s children and families or breast cancer awareness,” she said.
There is a possibility that Locke will stay involved with Komen in some way. “I’ve talked to the founder of Komen, Nancy Brinker, and CEO Hala Moddelmog,” she said. “We talked about [me becoming] involved in either the international division or with their advocacy alliance, which is more public policy. They just opened their D.C. office about a month ago. We’re talking about possibilities.”
Locke said President Obama and his wife have helped ease the transition by giving her family a warm welcome.
“They’re so down-to-earth and friendly and open,” said Locke. She says she has developed an admiration for the first lady, whom she describes as “elegant, articulate, and very impressive.”
Locke also remains confident that her husband will serve the country well. “I hope it can signal to others in the Asian American community that you can accomplish anything you want and that dreams do come true,” she said.
Secretary Locke is the first Chinese American to serve as the nation’s commerce secretary, and the second Asian American to ever assume the post, second only to Japanese American Norman Mineta. “He broke the glass ceiling, and it’s time to expand that.”
Locke admits that her family’s move to D.C., will be a big leap of faith, as it leaves much uncertainty in the years ahead. But she followed her heart more than a decade ago and is ready to do it again.
“We’re supporting Gary,” she said. “To me, that’s what marriage is about, right? Whether he’s supporting me or I’m supporting him. … Life is an adventure, and you go on it together. That’s the commitment you make. I do think that it’s going to be such an amazing adventure for us and a chapter that we will look back on and cherish for the rest of our lives.” ♦
Evangeline Cafe may be reached at email@example.com.