Biden promised his cabinet would reflect America’s diversity and it will now see its first Native American cabinet secretary (Deb Haaland); first female national intelligence director (Avril Haines); first Latino homeland security chief (Alejandro Mayorkas); first openly gay cabinet member (Pete Buttigieg) and more.
Democrats profess that personnel is policy and picking a more representative cabinet is their way of expressing accountability. It is in keeping the promise of connecting the government to the people who for a very long time would not see their voices represented in the echelons of power. It may be difficult to directly measure the importance of symbolism, but turning preconceived notions of leadership upside down can have very tangible implications.
In addition to the groundbreaking nominations so far—Janet Yellen as the first woman to be secretary of the Treasury; Lloyd Austin, the first African American to be secretary of defense; Alejandro Mayorkas, the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security; Xavier Becerra, the first Latino to be secretary of health and human services; and Neera Tanden, the first woman of color and first South Asian person to lead the Office of Management and Budget—Biden has selected at least seven women and nine people of color to fill Cabinet-level positions which have exceeded the diversity standards set by Obama in 2009.
There is also a growing list of Fil-Ams serving across the administration that includes Gloria Steele who will serve as acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Steele was a distinguished career member of the U.S. Government’s Senior Executive Service for over 18 years and has been called a visionary and dreamer by people who have benefited from her work at the USAID. Jason Tengco will join the Office of Personnel Management’s White House liaison; John Santos, a special assistant at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs; and Angela Dela Cruz Perez, a new graduate of Georgetown University who is now a part of the White House Communications and Press Staff as a press assistant.
At the Department of Interior, Camille Calimlim Touton was named Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, and over at the Department of Defense, Veronica Valdez is the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs. Many of the Fil-Am Appointee served in previous Democratic administrations.