THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
mates opened the first Chinese restaurant in midtown Manhat-
tan. It was he who petitioned for his grandson to leave Shanghai
and immigrate to the United States. On May 4, 1983, Gu and
his family started their new life in a small studio apartment in
Elmhurst, New York. Gu still remembers how astonished he was
back then by the abundance and choice offered in American
grocery stores. In China, staples such as oil, salt and cooking oil
were rationed, and eggs were only consumed on special occa-
sions. Gu wasn’t accustomed to escalators, indoor plumbing or
the luxury of hot tap water, either.
Pete Kapoukakis is the child of Greek immigrants. His father
was a barber in Athens before he and his wife decided to journey
to America to open their own business in the late 1960s. Neither
of his parents spoke any English, nor did they have much money.
They understood they would face significant obstacles, but were
not deterred. They worked long hours and, eventually, their per-
severance paid off. “They learned English, saved enough money
to start a business, bought a house, had kids, sent them to col-
lege, helped plan two weddings, had grandkids and eventually
retired to Florida—pretty much the American dream,” Kapouka-
kis recalls in an interview with the author.
Diverse Paths to DS
Agents from all backgrounds have amazing stories to tell
about their pathway to joining DS, but for immigrants, or chil-
dren of immigrants, the stories are especially remarkable.
Christian Poulsen, born and raised in Denmark, was work-
ing at U.S. Embassy The Hague as an independent contractor.
Intended to last three weeks, the assignment was converted into
a programmanager position that lasted two years. Poulsen’s
DS colleagues noted his exceptional performance and strongly
encouraged him to join DS. Poulsen discovered that in order to
apply, he would need to acquire his undergraduate degree and
convert his U.S. permanent residency into U.S. citizenship. Given
the age restriction of 37 for applicants, Poulsen had just 2.5 years
to accomplish these tasks.
During that time, he earned a degree (with honors), became
a U.S. citizen, applied to DS and was hired. It was all worth it,
Poulsen says, because his DS career offers him opportunities
to “be a force for high safety and security standards for fellow
Americans abroad.” He views DS as a “unique and incomparable
agency,” where opportunities for personal and professional
growth, meaningful impact and challenge are widely available.
In 1982, at the age of 19, Miguel Eversley emigrated from
Panama to New York City and became a U.S. citizen six years
later while serving in the U.S. Army. After fulfilling his obligation
to the military, Eversley wanted to continue in public service; he
joined the Washington, D.C., police department. While respond-
ing to a violent robbery, he encountered an Hispanic couple
traumatized by the event. Eversley immediately switched to his
native tongue, Spanish, which reassured and calmed them.
Afterward, to express their gratitude, the couple invited Ever-
sley to their home for dinner. It was there that he met Foreign
Service Officer Daniel Santos Jr., who happened to be the son of
a famous Puerto Rican balladeer adored by the Eversley family.
Santos described his career and sparked Eversley’s interest in
Christian Poulsen (seated at right) eats lunch with colleagues
at one of the Afghan Public Protection Force regional training
centers in Afghanistan.
Wayne and Alicia May, and Emma MacNamara, the ambassador’s
wife, pick up Brianna May from FANA (the Spanish acronym
for the Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children)
Orphanage in Colombia on her adoption day.