Hon. Mary I. Yu has been appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington Supreme Court, making her the state’s first Asian American and first openly gay Supreme Court justice. Yu makes this step after spending 14 years serving on the King County Superior Court, which she was appointed to by then-governor Gary Locke in 2000, the nation’s first governor of Asian descent.
By most accounts, Gary Locke — former governor of Washington (and the first Asian American to do so), and later Secretary of Commerce for the Obama administration in its first term — has excelled in his most recent position, which he has held since 2011: that of America’s Ambassador to China.
The first Chinese American to hold the position (his predecessors have all been White), Locke has earned himself the reputation of being a fair and unassuming ambassador (a virtual prerequisite for this specific type of position); one whose low-key nature has helped ease relationships between America and one of its largest economic and militaristic peers on the global stage. Although his position requires Locke to firmly but diplomatically represent American positions to the Chinese government — positions that aren’t by definition always going to be popular with China’s top officials — Locke has reportedly performed this task effectively.
And, it is precisely this firm but low-key persona that has made him something of a superstar with street-level Chinese residents, a tactic he might have learned from his train-riding, man-of-the-people compatriot, Vice President Joe Biden.