Christina (Tina) M. Tchen is White House Director for Public Engagement (since January 2009). Her immediate boss is Special Assistant to the President for the Office of Public Engagement Valerie Jarrett.
Tchen, who reports to close Barack Obama ally Valerie Jarrett, advances the president’s policies with interest groups through briefings, meetings and large events. She also serves as executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, which Jarrett chairs.
Tchen was born outside of Cleveland, Ohio, to Chinese immigrants who were wealthy in their home nation. One of her grandfathers was an entrepreneur, and the other earned a law degree at DePaul University in the U.S. before returning to China to practice. In 1949, her parents fled to the U.S. as communists approached Shanghai. Tchen’s father, Peter, had recently finished medical school, and her mother, Lily, had a student visa to study chemistry at Syracuse University. The two were engaged, and they married the morning they left China so Peter could leave with Lily. They brought only one suitcase to America, and eventually settled in Beachwood, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, where Peter Tchen became a psychiatrist.
- Radcliffe College, Harvard University, B.A., 1978
- Northwestern University School of Law, J.D., 1984
After graduating from Harvard University, Tchen moved to Springfield, Ill., to work for the state’s Budget Bureau as an analyst for the Department of Child and Family Services. Tchen spent three years in Springfield and became the Springfield chapter vice president for the National Organization for Women before leaving to get her law degree from Northwestern University. She joined Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom directly out of law school and worked in the Chicago office, which was recently opened and had just four lawyers in its litigation department.
Working in such a small office gave Tchen a lot of options, and she quickly climbed the corporate ladder. As a fourth-year associate, Tchen was already arguing on behalf of one of her client, DCFS, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tchen made partner at Skadden in 1992 and worked there for the next 16 years. She performed arbitrations and acquisitions, conducted internal investigations and represented clients in front of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Some of her highest-profile corporate clients included McDonald’s, Sprint and Motorola.
Tchen began working with NOW to pressure Illinois lawmakers to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. She stayed active in the feminist group, becoming vice president of the Illinois chapter while at Northwestern University.While working with NOW, Tchen helped write the bill that changed the Illinois rape statute to include sexual assault and other abuse.
Tchen is also active in the Chicago community. She is on the board of the Chicago Public Library, the University of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago Foundation for Women, Personal PAC, the Chinese American Service League among others.
She is part of the Chicago Network, an invitation-only club of high-powered professional women in Chicago. Valerie Jarrett, who is now Tchen’s supervisor in the White House, was a member, along with dozens of CEOs, lawyers, judges and congresswomen. “It exists to be what it is,” Tchen says, “which is a network.”
Links to Democratic Socialists of America
In 1988, Tina Tchen served on the Board of Directors of PROCAN (Progressive Chicago Area Network), an oganization which included several prominent Democratic Socialists of America members, including Alderman Danny K Davis, Roberta Lynch and Dr Ron Sable.
In 1999 the Chicago Community Renewal Society organized a CATALYST 10th Anniversary Prom, for Saturday, February 12, 2000, Grand Ballroom, Navy Pier;
- Julie Chavez, Managing Director Bank of America Illinois
- R. Eden Martin, President Civic Committee, Commercial Club of Chicago
- Richard Morrow, Retired Chairman and CEO Amoco Corporation
- Christina Tchen, Partner Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
- John Ayers, executive director Leadership for Quality Education
- James Deanes, director CPS Office of School and Community Relations
- Diana Nelson, public affairs director Union League Club
- Rose Nicholson, assistant principal Robeson High School
- Michelle Obama, assistant dean University of Chicago
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Tchen was an early Obama supporter and ultimately became one of his most prolific fundraisers. . A longtime feminist, Tchen says she found that people she worked with on women’s rights issues were often surprised that she was not supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the 2008 Democratic primary. But Tchen was one of Obama’s top fundraisers during his 2004 Senate campaign as well as during his 2008 presidential campaign. For the presidential run, she bundled more than $200,000 for Obama
After the campaign ended, Obama appointed Tchen to be White House Director of Public Liaison, which the administration soon renamed the Office of Public Engagement.
- PROCAN meeting notification letter April 27 1988