Foreign Service Journal - June 2013 - page 62

JUNE 2013
Anne Smedinghoff,
25, a Foreign
Service officer, died in the line of duty
on April 6 in a terrorist attack in the
Zabul province of Afghanistan while
delivering textbooks to Afghan school
children. Four other Americans and
an Afghan doctor also perished in the
attack. Ms. Smedinghoff is the first
State Department Foreign Service
casualty of the 12-year-long war in
Afghanistan, and the first FSO to die
on the job since last year’s attack in
The daughter of an attorney and
the second of four children, Anne
Smedinghoff grew up in River For-
est, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. An avid
reader, she had a lively and curious
mind. She graduated from Fenwick
High School in Oak Park, Ill., where
she was an officer in the International
Relations Club, and went on to attend
The Johns Hopkins University, where
she majored in international stud-
ies. In 2008, she helped organize the
university’s annual Foreign Affairs
Symposium, which draws high-profile
speakers from around the world,
among other on-campus and off-cam-
pus activities.
Following graduation in 2009, she
joined the Foreign Service. Her first
overseas assignment was Caracas, and
she then applied for the Afghanistan
position as a press officer. A colleague
at the embassy, Solmaz Sharisi, told
the Associated Press: “What I admired
most was her energy and enthusiasm,
and an unwavering commitment
to the work she was doing. She was
young, but she almost seemed like a
seasoned foreign diplomat.”
According to Sharisi, one of Ms.
Smedinghoff’s favorite projects was
working with the Afghan women’s soc-
cer team to help it gain greater accep-
tance; she even honed her own soccer
skills by practicing on her days off.
While in Kabul, she also served
as the control officer for Secretary of
State John Kerry’s visit to the country,
just weeks before her death.
Scheduled to complete the Afghan-
istan tour in July, she was looking
forward to spending a year learning
Arabic in the United States and Cairo
before a two-year assignment in Alge-
ria. She was already fluent in Spanish.
By all accounts, Anne Smeding-
hoff had a promising Foreign Service
career ahead of her.
“We are consoled knowing that she
was doing what she loved, and that
she was serving her country by help-
ing to make a positive different in the
world,” Tom and Mary Beth Smed-
inghoff said in a moving statement
on learning of their daughter’s death.
“It was a great adventure for her. She
loved it,” her father, Tom Smedinghoff,
told AP later. “She was tailor-made for
this job.”
In a statement to the press on April
6 from Istanbul, where he learned of
the tragedy, Secretary of State John
Kerry condemned the “cowardly”
terrorists responsible for the attack,
declaring that America “does not and
will not cower before terrorism.”
Kerry added: “We put ourselves in
harm’s way because we believe in giv-
ing hope to our brothers and sisters all
over the world, knowing that we share
universal human values. So it is now
up to us to determine what the legacy
of this tragedy will be. Where others
seek to destroy, we intend to show a
stronger determination to brighten
our shared future. That was Anne’s
In memorial gatherings in the
Chicago area, Baltimore and Washing-
ton, D.C., Ms. Smedinghoff’s talent,
kindness, generosity, enthusiasm,
adventurousness and commitment to
making the world a better place for all
was recalled and honored.
At Fenwick High School, where Ms.
Smedinghoff had returned in Decem-
ber to speak to students about her
diplomatic career, Associate Principal
Richard Borsch remembered her as
a cross-country runner. “That par-
ticular sport often produces some of
the best students. Perhaps it’s all the
discipline, the routine, the attention to
detail when training.”
Her former Spanish teacher, Irene
Drago, recalled Smedinghoff’s gift for
foreign languages and quiet intelli-
gence. She also observed that teachers
are supposed to inspire students, but
sometimes the reverse is true. “Anne
inspired me,” she stated.
In Baltimore, at a celebration of her
life at Johns Hopkins University on
April 27, a group of friends and former
classmates recalled adventures with
Anne—from sky diving in Arizona and
being caught in a Jordanian sand-
storm during a biking trip, to the 2009
cross-country biking trek, known as
the Hopkins 4K, for the Ulman Cancer
Fund for Young Adults. The group
launched a drive to gather books for
Baltimore public school children in
her memory.
Also at Johns Hopkins, friends
and family have established the Anne
Smedinghoff Memorial Scholarship
Fund to help support students who
wish to study abroad but need finan-
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