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Christopher P. Lu ( ; born June 12, 1966) is Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary for United States President Barack Obama's executive office. Lu graduated from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton Universitymarker and from Harvard Law Schoolmarker, where he was a classmate of Obama, although the two were only casually acquainted at the time. He served as a litigation attorney for the Washington, D.C.marker firm Sidley Austin before taking his first political position as deputy chief counsel for Representative Henry Waxman and the Democratic staff of the United States House Government Reform Committee.

After serving briefly as an advisor on Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, Lu came to work in Barack Obama's U.S. Senate office, where he served as legislative director and acting chief of staff. Following Obama's successful 2008 campaign for presidency, Lu was appointed executive director of the Obama-Biden Transition Project. When Obama appointed Lu as Cabinet Secretary, The New York Times described him as "one of the highest-ranking Asian Americans in the Obama administration".

Early life

Chris Lu was born June 12, 1966 in New Jerseymarker. In 1974, his family moved to the Fallsmead neighborhood of , where he grew up. Lu is the son of Eileen and Chien-Yang Lu, both of whom were born in Chinamarker and lived in Taiwanmarker until the 1950s when they emigrated to the United Statesmarker to attend college. Lu's grandfather, Wang Ren-yuan, was the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Chinamarker from 1960 to 1966 and was elected to the first Legislative Yuan in 1946 to represent Tianjin Districtmarker. Lu said he was heavily influenced by his father, who worked as an electrical engineer but loved literature and history; the two would read biographies of politicians and watch the evening news together.

In 1984, Lu graduated from Thomas S.marker Wootton High Schoolmarker, where he served on the debate team. Lu attended Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton Universitymarker, where he was the senior news editor of the Daily Princetonian. Lu's ambition for a political career developed at Princeton, particularly during his internship in the Capitol Hillmarker office of Senator Charles Mathias; Lu's college roommate predicted Lu would eventually become a senator himself. Lu graduated magna cum laude in 1988, after writing a senior thesis on press coverage of presidential campaigns. In the years following his graduation, Lu served as class secretary for the Princeton Alumni Weekly and served on the Daily Princetonian board of trustees until 2007, when his time commitment to the Barack Obama campaign for presidency became too great. After graduating from Princeton, Lu attended Harvard Law Schoolmarker, where he was one of Barack Obama's classmates from 1988 to 1991. The two did not know each other well at the time, but as Obama was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review, Lu was familiar with Obama and admired his talents. Lu said of him, "Where Barack Obama spoke in class, everybody listened. He was a thoughtful, an intelligent, a decent person."

Career

After graduating cum laude from Harvard in 1991, Lu began his career as a law clerk to Judge Robert Cowen in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 1992, he began working as a litigation attorney at Sidley Austin, a Chicago-based law firm with more than 1,800 lawyers worldwide. Lu worked in the Washington, D.C., office and stayed at the firm until 1997, during which time he met Kathryn Thomson, whom he eventually married. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, also worked at Sidley Austin, in the firm's Chicagomarker office.

In 1997, Lu left Sidley Austin and took his first job in the political arena as deputy chief counsel for Representative Henry Waxman and the Democratic staff of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the House of Representatives. Phil Schiliro, Waxman's chief of staff, had a large part in the decision to hire Lu; the two would work together again later on the Obama administration; Lu later said he considers Schiliro and Pete Rouse, another future White Housemarker staffer, among his most influential mentors. During his tenure with the Government Reform Committee, Lu conducted several high-profile investigations, including investigations into campaign fundraising during the 1996 presidential election, the collapse of Enron and substandard nursing home conditions. While continuing to work for the committee, Lu also served as special adviser for communications to Senator John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. One of his primary duties there was coordinating the activities of families of September 11 attack victims supporting the Kerry campaign.

Barack Obama's Senate office

After Barack Obama was elected as U.S. Senator of Illinoismarker, Lu left his job at the Government Reform Committee in 2005 to join Obama's office as legislative director. Lu developed a strong admiration for Obama, of whom he said, "With his quick and incisive mind, Obama is the most intelligent person that I have ever met (in the political arena)." As legislative director, Lu led a 15-person group and was responsible for overseeing the drafting of all legislation and floor speeches for Obama. His responsibilities also included advising Obama on all votes and policy decisions. When weighing difficult votes, Obama had Lu and his other staff members assemble together and argue about the issue in front of him. David Mendell, a Chicago Tribune reporter and Obama biographer, said Lu was among the "moderate voices in this atmosphere of smart young staffers." Lu advised Obama to vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 because he felt it would have been politically wiser to support it, but Obama ultimately voted against it.

Lu said of his role as legislative director, "It's one of the most fun jobs in the Senate (but) it's also an incredibly difficult job because you have to know something about any given thing going on in the Senate at the time ... It takes a couple years off your life." After one year with the Senate, Lu told Washingtonian Obama was frustrated with "how the Republicans aren't interested in the issues that he thinks are important to the American people." Lu also explained part of the appeal of Obama was that "he's like a Rorschach test: you see in him what you want." Lu, along with Robert Gibbs and several other Obama staffers, read the Obama's manuscript for The Audacity of Hope and provided him with several editorial suggestions.

Lu eventually became acting chief of staff in Obama's Senate office. When Obama announced his candidacy for president in February 2007, Lu did not move over to the campaign right away, but remained to continue running Obama's operations in the Senate; Lu said of Obama at that time, "Even while he was running for president, he had a day job." Lu was a policy advisor for the presidential campaign while simultaneously managing his Senate duties. Lu also served as communications director for Obama's primary campaign in Delawaremarker, where Obama defeated Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by more than 10,000 votes.

Obama presidential administration

After Obama's victory, Lu became executive director of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, a position that was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the transition. Obama imposed strict conflict-of-interest restrictions on the transition team and left Lu largely responsible for enforcing them; any officials who even appeared to have a conflict of interest in working with the Obama administration had to seek a waiver specifically from Lu. During the transition period, The New York Times reporter Michael Falcone wrote, "By now, Mr. Lu knows the president-elect's record better than almost anyone." Lu's office is in the second floor of the White House's West Wingmarker.

Obama selected Lu to serve as Cabinet Secretary, making him one of the highest-ranking Asian Americans in the administration, along with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Lu's responsibilities include representing Obama's positions to each of the Cabinet secretaries and agencies and coordinating a common White House agenda among them. Marc Ambinder, associate editor of The Atlantic, said of Lu, "when agency heads have a problem, or when the White House has a problem with an agency head, Mr. Lu will be the first person who's called, or calls."


During the first months of the Obama administration, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood proposed that no Department of Transportation employees should be allowed to use text messaging on cellular phones while driving. LaHood sent the proposal to Lu, who suggested it be further implemented to all federal government employees. Through the work of Lu and other White House officials, Obama signed an executive order that no federal employees should text while driving. Lu visited Chinamarker in July 2009 as part of an official delegation for the Obama administration, along with Locke and Chu. Although his parents were born there, it was the first time Lu had set foot on Chinese soil. When Lu was introduced to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in July 2009, Wen said upon meeting Lu, "I know the name and also the importance of his position."

Personal life

Chris Lu is married to Kathryn Thomson, an environmental lawyer. Lu is an avid runner and has participated in 18 marathons between 2002 and 2008, including the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Lu has lived in Virginiamarker, Maryland and Washington, D.C., but said he thinks of himself as a Marylander.

References

  1. "Kaleo O Aapi: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders." Obama for America, official campaign literature, pg.4, July 25, 2008.


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