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44

MARCH 2017

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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.  

COURTESYOFCHRISTIANPOULSEN

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.

COURTESYOFBRIANNAMAY