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:
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.
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
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…