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A Daughter Reflects on Foreign Service Life


Maggie Antonijevic was born in

Kinshasa, Democratic Repub-

lic of the Congo—when it was

still known as Zaire—while her

father was on his first assign-

ment with USAID. She grew up

in Haiti, Mali and Jamaica, and

spent summers with her father

in Guinea and Kenya while in

college. As a child, starting in

second grade, she kept jour-

nals about life overseas, which

she still has stacked in her

closet. Now she enjoys writing

outside of her journals and is

overwhelmed with gratitude

for the unique life the Foreign

Service gave to her. Maggie

currently lives with her family

in Chicago, where she teaches

kindergarten. She wrote this

reflection about her father,

USAID FSO David Atteberry.

Foreign Service folk are

accustomed to saying good-

bye. Life in the Foreign Service

demands that we leave

friends, family and homes

countless times.

I grew up in the Foreign

Service, following my father

from post to post. This

career choice requires

monumental sacrifice.

Beyond the glamour of

exotic homes and inter-

national travel, there has

been a current of sadness

in our lives: relationships

lost or broken from years

of being uprooted.

As I became older, I

wondered why. Is this

lifetime of saying good-

bye worth it? Then I would

hear my father talk about his

chosen profession.

His voice would shake; he

would close his eyes and take

deep breaths. He would say to

me,“If I’m not helping others

have a better life, then what

am I doing with my life?”

He would continue: “We

are so lucky to be born some-

where we could go to school,

have clothes to wear, clean

water to drink and enough

food to eat. These are simple

things that so many people on

this planet don’t have.”

I understood, and I still do.

The Foreign Service is not an

easy calling. I have been shar-

ing my dad with the Foreign

Service my whole life, saying

goodbye to him almost as

quickly as we greet each other

for a visit.

My father grew up in Texas.

He remembers the Texas heat

as he tore through



, eager to read

about the world at large.

After a childhood spent in the

suburbs of Dallas, he won-

dered: Why is there so much

inequality?Why do people dis-

criminate against each other

based on race and class?Why

do some people have so much

and others so little?

He grew into a curly-haired

man who loved the Beatles

and cute girls and wanted to

help make the world a better

place. One evening in the

1970s, he announced: “Mom,

Dad, I’mmoving to Central


The response was “You are




My father joined

the Peace Corps and

then the USAID Foreign

Service. In his 33-year

career he has served in

Zaire, Haiti, Mali, Jamaica,

Guinea, Ghana and Nepal.

Now, as he contem-

plates his next post, I have

a message for him and for

every Foreign Service man

or woman nearing retire-

ment, especially those brave

enough to have raised their

children overseas.

I hope you take this mes-

sage with you: Yes, you made

me leave my friends and

guaranteed that I would start

over in school every three

years and worry if Santa Claus

would find us. But your work

changed my heart; it taught

me compassion and courage

in a way I can never repay.

Beyond what your career

choice did for me, hundreds

living in villages, towns and

cities around the world will

see better days because of

you and your amazing work.

I know how lucky I am to

have been raised in the midst

of such magnificent human

power and imagination con-

spiring to make the world a

better place. Congratulations,

Dad, on a job well done.

So when you are lying on

the sand with your face up to

the sun, as retirement life sur-

rounds you, never forget what

you have done.

The world is a better place

because of you.


The author and her father in Haiti in

the mid-1980s.

FSO David Atteberry with local residents at his post in Nepal.