Tales from the Trail

Locke family: from houseboy to U.S. ambassador in two generations

A century after his grandfather first left China for the United States, where he worked as a houseboy in exchange for English lessons, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was chosen by President Barack Obama to go to Beijing as U.S. ambassador.

USA/“More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamboat bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington state. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat,” Obama said in announcing the nomination.

Locke’s grandfather returned to China, but the family moved back to the United States. Locke’s father came as a teenager and enlisted in the U.S. Army shortly before World War Two. He saw action in Normandy and on the march to Berlin. Later, he opened a grocery story in Seattle, where Locke worked while attending Seattle public schools before going to Yale University and Boston University’s law school.

“My father never imagined that one of his children could ever serve as the Secretary of Commerce in the United States of America,” Locke said. His father, who died in January, was “beaming with pride” when Locke was sworn in to that cabinet post, he said.

“I know that if he were still alive, it would be one of his proudest moments to see his son named as the United States ambassador to his ancestral homeland.”

from Summit Notebook:

U.S. Commerce Secretary doesn’t like ring of Shanghai Silicon Valley

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says one thing he doesn't want to see is a Shanghai Silicon Valley develop from China's investment in clean energy.

He warned that if the United States doesn't move forward on clean energy, it risks falling behind China where the government is spending almost $100 billion a year to support renewable energy and clean energy efficiency.

And China is not doing it just to address climate change issues, but because it sees an economic opportunity. "They're really focusing investing in the clean energy field to serve the needs of the world," Locke said at the Reuters Washington Summit.

Do looks matter in China?

BEIJING – Does having “a Chinese face” help two top U.S. officials in hard bargaining on energy and trade issues with the Chinese?

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose grandfather came to the United States from China, told reporters in Beijing not necessarily so.

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed pride in Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s ancestory when he met with them on Thursday.

Obama’s 3rd Commerce pick makes rounds in Senate

President Barack Obama’s third pick to head the Commerce Department, former Washington Governor Gary Locke, made the rounds in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday hoping to win support to be confirmed for the job.

OBAMA/NOMINEE LOCKEApparently escaping notice by most reporters, Locke waited with aides outside the Senate chamber as lawmakers cast votes on the $410 billion fiscal 2009 spending legislation which includes the Commerce Department.

He is the president’s third nominee for the position. Obama’s first choice, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew because of an inquiry into a company that did business with his state government. His second pick, New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg pulled out after discovering intractable political differences with the new administration.