U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao delivers a speech during the awarding ceremony of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award in New York, the United States, Nov. 1, 2019. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao was bestowed with the prestigious AOTOS Award on Friday, in recognition of her career-long commitment to the country's maritime industry. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
NEW YORK, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao was bestowed with the prestigious Admiral of the Ocean Sea (AOTOS) Award on Friday, in recognition of her career-long commitment to the country's maritime industry.
"It is a great honor to receive the most prestigious award from the U.S. maritime community. It is a community that I have worked with ever since I was at the White House in 1983," said Chao while receiving the award presented by the United Seamen's Service in midtown Manhattan on Friday night.
The service, which presents the award annually, hailed the Chinese American secretary as "one of the strongest advocates for the U.S. maritime industry" in the history of the Department of Transportation.
Interviewed by Xinhua on the sidelines of the ceremony, Chao said she was "very humbled to receive this award after so many years of helping the maritime industry."
Chao added that she had learned a lot about the maritime industry from her father, James S.C. Chao, who became the youngest sea captain in his time at the age of 29. The 91-year-old James, who immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s, founded the New York-based shipping giant Foremost Group, which boasts some of the world's largest bulk carriers.
"I know -- because of his experience -- the challenges and the hardships of merchant mariners, and the life at sea. So I always try to look out for merchant mariners and try to improve their lives and also contribute to the industry," Chao said.
Chao, 66, was the first Asian American woman to enter a presidential cabinet in American history. She is also one of the longest serving secretaries in the current U.S. administration under President Donald Trump.
She attributed a large part of her success to her parents: "My parents are incredibly inspiring. They're optimistic, forward-looking, compassionate and empathetic people."
"And they taught their daughters to always contribute to society, to help lift up the status of Chinese Americans, and to always try to help others," she added.
In its 50th year, the AOTOS Award recognizes individuals and organizations who have shown outstanding support for American seafarers and maritime industry.