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Chris Lu

White House Cabinet Secretary (2009-2013)

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(Christopher Lu)

Why He Matters

Chris Lu, President Obama’s chief liaison to the Cabinet, is leaving his post after four years. Obama has asked him to consider serving in another White House post after taking some time off.

“Chris Lu is one of my longest-serving and closest advisors, first crafting my legislative agenda in the Senate, then leading my Presidential transition, and most recently, managing my relations with the Cabinet,” Obama said in a statement. “Through his dedication and tireless efforts, Chris has overseen one of the most stable and effective Cabinets in history — a Cabinet that has produced extraordinary accomplishments over the past four years.”

Lu has been at President Barack Obama's side since Obama came to Washington in 2005 as a senator from Illinois. Lu had spent the previous eight years as a counsel for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee before signing on as Obama's legislative director. During Obama's presidential campaign, Lu's top priority was monitoring Obama's Senate votes, but after Obama won the presidential election he named Lu executive director of the transition team.

That led to an appointment as White House Cabinet secretary, which acts as a liaison between the White House and the Cabinet. Lu

 

At a Glance

  • Career History: Executive Director of President Barack Obama's transition team (Nov. 2008-Jan. 2009); Legislative Director for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) (2005 to 2008); Special Adviser for Communications for Sen. John F. Kerry's (D-Mass.) presidential campaign (2004); Deputy Chief Counsel for the Democratic staff on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (1997 to 2005)
  • Birthday: June 12, 1966
  • Hometown: Born in New Jersey and raised in Rockville, Md.
  • Alma Mater: Princeton University, B.A., 1988; Harvard Law School, J.D., 1991
  • Web site
 

Path to Power

Lu was born in New Jersey and raised in Maryland. His parents came to the United States from Taiwan as graduate students in the 1960s. Lu grew up listening to the news and reading biographies of famous statesmen with his father, an electrical engineer who loved history. Lu became interested in politics, and has said he was grateful that his parents encouraged him to study whatever interested him. His grandfather, Wang Ren-Yuan, was Taiwan's Attorney General from 1970 to 1976 and was a representative in the Legislative Yuan.

Lu graduated from Princeton's Wilson School (his time there overlapped with the future Michelle Obama by one year but they did not know each other) and worked on the Daily Princetonian, eventually as the school paper's news editor. "I learned to write, to think quickly, to meet deadlines, all at the 'Prince,' " he said. "It was really the best education I ever got." He stayed involved with the paper and he served on the board of trustees until his work in politics became too much of a time commitment.

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The Issues

Lu had his hand in all the important decisions Obama made in his four years in the Senate. Lu described his job as paying attention to "every bill that [Obama] introduce[d] and every vote that he [cast], every speech he [made], and how he [spent] every minute of every day." He oversaw a staff of 15 that drafted legislation Obama presented and floor speeches the senator gave.

As an attorney for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Lu led investigations into campaign fundraising during the 1996 presidential election and the collapse of Enron. He has also said that affordable education is an issue that is particularly important to him. "A child of immigrants from China, I know the issue on the minds of my parents was how to send their kids to college - and that's why I think it's an important signal that the first piece of legislation that Barack Obama introduced when he came to Washington was to increase the amount of Pell grants to help more kids attend college, and as a member of the U.S. Senate, he worked closely with Sen. [Edward] Kennedy to get that increase signed into law," he said.

 

The Network

For seven years, Lu worked for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he drafted legislation and conducted investigations for Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Democratic chief of staff Phil Schiliro. He also worked on Sen. John F. Kerry's communications team during Kerry's 2004 run for president.

(photo courtesy White House / Pete Souza)

 

Additional Resources

  1. "Spotlight on Christopher Lu," Obama for America, July 25, 2008
  2. "4 join senior Obama team," Orlando Sentinel (Florida), Nov. 20, 2008
  3. Lynn Sweet, "Obama's next step; What's in line for Emanuel, Bill Daley, Jarrett?" The Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 27, 2008
  4. Cornelia Hall, "Obama taps Princeton alum to run transition," The Daily Princetonian via UWIRE, Nov. 7, 2008
  5. "People: Revolving Door," National Journal's CongressDaily, March 1, 2005
  6. Aziz Hanifa, "Time for community to flex political muscle, says Mike Honda," India Abroad (New York), Oct. 10, 2008
  7. Cornelia Hall, "Obama taps Princeton alum to run transition," The Daily Princetonian via UWIRE, Nov. 7, 2008
  8. Christine Chiu, "Chinese-American Chief of Staff Chris Lu assists Obama; A Harvard Classmate, in decision-making core group," The World Journal, April 20, 2008
  9. Cornelia Hall, "Obama taps Princeton alum to run transition," The Daily Princetonian via UWIRE, Nov. 7, 2008