Thursday, September 15, 2011


Tributes poured for Maria Mabilangan Haley, once the most influential Filipino American in the White House, who passed away Tuesday at age 70 after suffering a stroke last week.

Former President Bill Clinton called her a “great public servant, a wonderful person and friend for more than 30 years.”

“We mourn her passing,” the former president said in a statement, “we must also be very grateful for her life.”

Haley was the highest ranking Fil-Am in the Clinton administration, where she played a key role in forming the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, according to the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

“Ms. Haley was a strong voice for Filipino American empowerment, providing much needed advice, assistance and encouragement to community leaders in their efforts to build a national presence in Washington DC in the mid-1990s,” the NaFFAA said in a statement.

“She was especially attentive to the needs of Filipino Americans who were seeking elected office or pursuing opportunities for public service,” they added.

“When I was Governor of Arkansas, Maria was invaluable in opening foreign markets to our products, recruiting foreign investment in our state and supporting my work in the National Governors Association,” Clinton revealed.

When Clinton became president, Haley was appointed to the US Export-Import Bank and served as presidential special assistant and deputy director of the Presidential Personnel Office that helped recruit and screen prospective presidential appointees.

“Thousands of people in Arkansas, throughout the United States and in the Philippines benefitted from Maria Haley’s life-long commitment to bring economic opportunities to more people,” Clinton said.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said Haley “did more for the state than most people will ever know. Her tireless mission to create and keep jobs in Arkansas was a primary factor in our ability to ride out the recession. She will be dearly missed as a friend and colleague.”

“Maria was an inspiration to everyone she came into contact with,” said Arkansas Economic Development Commission Chairman Tom Kirk, “She was a woman of the world who brought a unique perspective to economic development…I want her family to know the important place she held in so many lives.”

“I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Maria Haley. Maria spent a lifetime building opportunities for others. I will miss Maria’s resolve, hard work and strong leadership,” said Senator Mark Pryor.

The former chief of Baldor Electric Company, John McFarland, described how Haley helped their company expand in Asia. “She came along and said, ‘Look, we’ll help you. You tell us who you want to meet and we’ll help you meet the’. At that point we were doing nothing in Asia, no contracts. Today, Baldor has offices throughout Asia and has tens of millions of dollars in sales there each year,” he recalled.

“She was just a nice person. She never lost what I call the common touch. You know some people go off to these big jobs in Washington and elsewhere and they lose that. She never did,” McFarland said.

Haley was born in the Philippines and educated in India, Pakistan, France and Spain. She was senior director for Asia with Kissinger McLarty Associates (2001-2007); board member of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (1994-1999); special assistant in the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House (1993-1994).

She also served as an adviser to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001-2002.

At the time of her death, Haley was executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

“We will always remember Ms. Haley’s kindness and generosity of spirit. She will always remain an inspiration to us all,” the NaFFAA said.

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