Hey, everybody! It's that time again. Gather 'round, because it's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Tina Tchen.
Who are you?
My name is Christina Tchen, but everyone calls me Tina. I'm the daughter of Chinese immigrants, a mother of two, and a staffer at the White House.
What are you?
Well, according to my business card, I'm Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. My resume would add that I'm a lawyer educated at Northwestern University School of Law and a Radcliffe College graduate. If you asked my family, I'm a mother, a sister, an aunt, and a dog-owner. My friends would probably say I'm an avid reader, a foodie, and a compulsive coffee drinker.
Where are you?
Right now, I'm completing this interview from my office in the East Wing of the White House before I head off to a day full of meetings throughout the complex.
Where are you from?
I was born in Columbus, Ohio, but relocated to Chicago for law school, where I stayed to practice law.
What do you do?
My title is pretty long and involves me wearing many different hats on any given day. I'm Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, and Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls. That means I have the honor to work with teams of people here in the White House and across the government to further the First Lady's priorities, such as our initiatives on fighting childhood obesity (Let's Move), supporting military families and veterans (Joining Forces), encouraging students to pursue their education past high school (Reach Higher), and advocating for adolescent girls' education around the world (Let Girls Learn). With the Council on Women and Girls, I support the President's policies and initiatives on gender equity, which we most recently highlighted in our White House Summit on the United State of Women.
But the theme running through all of these efforts is working to ensure all people have their best chance to succeed, and making sure that as many voices as possible are allowed into the conversation. We gather as many people as possible from as many sectors as possible to tackle these issues from every angle. This means meeting and engaging with not just staff from all corners of the White House, but with innovators, thinkers, and activists around the world to spark more conversations and create change.
What are you all about?
I'm all about giving people spaces where they can learn to grow and succeed. The importance of this was engrained in me at a young age when my parents made sure my sister and I had every opportunity to succeed. This included embracing and celebrating our heritage as Chinese Americans, even though we lived in a community where there were only a handful of Asian Americans. One way my parents accomplished this was by founding the Midwest Chinese Family Camp, where our entire family would go every year to meet and learn from other Chinese American families. That camp, nearly 60 years later, is still going strong!
I hope I have been able to continue creating those spaces in my own work, whether it's been creating an office environment that listens to all voices and ideas, or making sure that my kids also had experiences to develop an identity for themselves. I've always come back to the importance of community, which is the approach I brought to my first job at the White House, which was as the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. That is why I continue to fight for groups who have had their communities marginalized or silenced in my legal work, through my work with the White House Council on Women and Girls, at the First Lady's Office—making sure all kids have access to higher education and a place to play—fostering and building communities is really at the center of everything I do, because that camp, and my parent's work, was so important to me.
What makes you angry?
In a word, injustice. Everyone, especially women and girls, should be given equal opportunities to succeed, from pursuing an education or running a company. When people are not given the same access to resources, when certain individuals or groups of people experience barriers in their way that others wouldn't dream of facing motivates me. For example, 62 million girls around the world do not have access to an education, and here in the United States, women on average still only make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. But I am hopeful because I have also seen over the past 8 years, the kind of change that can happen when people come together to combat sexual assault on campuses, or to make sure our veterans and military families get the jobs, education and support they deserve.
Seeing all of the people throughout my life who have taken a stand against injustices, from girls in Liberia fighting for their right to be educated, to kids in Chicago canvassing for a candidate they believe in, to thousands of individuals gathering together to celebrate and commit to the United State of Women, inspires me to keep working for change, and to rejoice in the what we have been able to accomplish!