Since we know many kinds of ABCs, know that Christina M. "Tina" Tchen, 52, is the privileged-parents-fled-from-communism kind. She was born and raised in Ohio of a psychiatrist father and a homemaker mother. She did Harvard (yes indeed, mod min) and did three years in Springfield, Illinois in the Department of Child and Family Services, one ongoing theme in her life. She got her law degree from Northwestern (mod min), and went straight into high-powered Chicago law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (mod min), where she made partner in 1992 and worked for 25 years (mod min, mod min!). She's also the single mother of an adopted Chinese daughter, [ETA:] aged 12, and a 20-year-old birth son now attending UCLA.
Until she moved to the capitol, our girl was heavily active in Chicago politics and nonprofitics. She worked on the Harold Washington mayoral campaigns, on Obama's senatorial campaign, and served on boards and did pro bono work for mad orgs ... a real "community activist." In this personal essay she explained why she goes over the top like that:
It is the significance of belonging, of becoming part of somewhere, of caring enough about where you live, work, and raise your children that you want to do something to make it a better place. I cannot imagine a life on the sidelines, merely going home each night, perhaps clucking about our school system or the sorry state of health care, without being involved somehow in the work that addresses these issues.
Oh yeah, and she's also been hella active in women's issues. As whorunsgov.org nutshells it:
When she moved to Springfield after college, Tchen began working with
NOW to pressure Illinois lawmakers to ratify the Equal Rights
Amendment. She stayed active in the feminist group, becoming vice
president of the Illinois chapter while at Northwestern University.
While working with NOW, Tchen helped write the bill that changed the
Illinois rape statute to include sexual assault and other abuse.
Ms. Tchen goes to Washington with Obama, her associate of
more than ten years, to be the White House Director for Public Liaison.
This is a reward for her kickass fundraising skills: she was one of his
top fundraisers, pulling between $200,000 - $500,000 on her own through her crazy Chicago connections. And while she's doing that, she's also going to be Executive Director for Obama's brand, spanking, new White House Council for Women and Girls, whose mission is
to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy ... [and] provide a coordinated federal response to the challenges confronted by
women and girls and to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level
agencies consider how their policies and programs impact women and
Where did this come from? Well, apparently, Clinton set up such an office in 1995, but it got shockingly short shrift during the eight years of rampant gender equity gains (not) we affectionately call the Bushlag Archipelago. Then:
In December, 50 women's groups lobbied the president
to create a bureau that was itself Cabinet-level, which this is not,
but that doesn't mean anyone's complaining. Planned Parenthood
"applauds" the move in a statement released earlier today. As Susan
Scanlan of the National Council of Women’s Organizations told Politico's Josh Gerstein: "It's certainly more than we have had in the last eight years. We're pretty happy with this administration."
Please note the occasional, mild warnings that this gig doesn't replace, but is added on top of Tchen's (and the council chair Valerie Jarrett's) other, primary duties, and may not be as ... er ... primary.
But then, that's where a volunteering junkie like Tchen excels: in going above and beyond. And that's where she's a hero to me. She somehow does manage to find enough balance in all of this to be successful and effective. And now all of her vocational and community passions are coming together in one (or is it two?), extremely high-powered and high-profile job. Whatever happens, she's earned the reward, and I can't wait to see what she does with it