Daily Archives: October 8, 2010

President Obama Selects Pete Rouse ~ First Asian-American Chief of Staff

Posted by: Audiegrl

WhoRunsGov~As White House staffers praise incoming chief of staff Pete Rouse as a fixer, Asian American bloggers are taking heart from his appointment for another reason: Rouse’s mother, born Mary Mikami, is the daughter of Japanese immigrants to America.

Blogger Jeff Yang at Asian culture and politics blog Original Spin praised Obama’s selection of Rouse as yet another example of the president’s “clear comfort with and respect for Asian Americans as colleagues and key team members.”

“While Rouse has not emphasized his Asian American roots during his political career, neither has he denied them — and given that his mother grew up speaking only Japanese, and his maternal grandparents were interned during the War, he certainly has critical narratives of the Asian American experience deeply embedded in his personal history,” wrote Yang.

Yang’s item was picked up by other Asian culture blogs, which also hailed the pick. “If I’m not mistaken, that makes Rouse the White House’s first Asian American chief of staff. All things considered, this is quite awesome,” wrote the blogger behind Angry Asian Man.

“I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty dang cool to see so many Asian Americans breaking through the political glass ceiling in Washington,” said Jenn Fang, who wrote for Asian Americans for Obama during the campaign, at her blog ReAppropriate.

Thursday’s Anchorage Daily News provides some background on Rouse’s family history:

The story of Alaska’s connection to Obama’s inner circle begins in 1915 with the arrival of Goro (George) and Mine Mikami in Seward, where construction of the Alaska Railroad was under way. Three years later the immigrants from Japan moved to Anchorage. Their daughter, Mary, entered school speaking only Japanese and went on to become valedictorian at Anchorage High School. In 1934, Mary graduated with honors from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines in Fairbanks (the year before it became the University of Alaska), then moved on to Yale, where she earned a Ph.D. and met her husband, Irving Rouse.

(George and Mine Mikami retired and moved to Los Angeles just before World War II, and were sent to a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during the war. A scholarship in their name, endowed by their four children, is given at the university in Fairbanks today.)

The Cook Inlet Historical Society, which tells the history of the Anchorage area, has a page devoted to the Mikami family:

Cook Inlet Historical Society portrait of The Mikami family, circa 1917, prior to moving to Anchorage. Father George, mother Mine, daughters Mary and Alice and son Harry

George Mikami was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1864 and immigrated to the United States in 1885, landing in San Francisco, California. In 1910 he returned to Japan to marry Mine Morioka, who was born in Tokyo in 1884. Together they returned to the United States in 1911. With two children, Mary, born in 1912 and Alice, born the following year, they moved to Seward, Alaska in 1915 and spent the next two years there.

In 1918 the family moved to Anchorage, and here George opened a tailor shop on 4th Avenue between B and C Streets. By then they had added two more children; Harry, born in Seward in 1915 and Flora, born in Anchorage in 1919. The four children all did their part in the family business, with George and Mine handling the heavy alterations and tailoring.

Daughter Mary Mikami Rouse had two children, Peter and David Rouse.

Other chiefs of staff also have been ethnic minorities. John Sununu, chief of staff to President George H. W. Bush, was of Lebanese descent on his father’s side, making him the first Arab American in the post. Kenneth Duberstein, who served as chief for President Ronald Reagan, was the first Jewish chief of staff. Joshua Bolten, who served under President George W. Bush, was the second and departing Obama chief Rahm Emanuel was the third.

There has yet to be a female or African American chief of staff in the White House.

Please check out Rouse’s WRG profile, for more information…


Filed under Asian/Pacific Islander, Change, Obama Administration, Pres. Barack Obama

West Wing Week ~ A Farewell to Rahm ~ October 2 – October 9, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, center, leads students from River Terrace Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on a tour of the South Grounds of the White House, Oct. 7, 2010. The group toured the White House Kitchen Garden as a part of a program available to local elementary, middle, and high school students. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Walk step by step with the President as he bids farewell to his outgoing Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, and appoints Pete Rouse the new Interim Chief of Staff, holds the first ever Community College Summit at the White House alongside Dr. Biden, signs the bill granting the Congressional Gold Medal to Japanese-American World War II vets – the Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, awards the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller,and much more…

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President Barack Obama meets with interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse in the Oval Office, Oct. 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Looking for more stories on the First Lady? Check out our special section: FLOTUS: All Things Michelle Obama

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Filed under Change, Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, Vice-President Joe Biden, West Wing Week