Diplomat killed in Afghanistan 'selfless, idealistic'
CHICAGO — Anne Smedinghoff had a quiet ambition and showed a love of global affairs from an early age, joining the U.S. Foreign Service right out of college and volunteering for missions in perilous locations worldwide.
So when the 25-year-old suburban Chicago woman was killed on Saturday in southern Afghanistan — the first American diplomat to die on the job since last year's attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya — her family took solace in the fact that she died doing something she loved.
“It was a great adventure for her. ... She loved it,” her father, Tom Smedinghoff, said on Sunday. “She was tailor-made for this job.”
Anne Smedinghoff grew up in River Forest, Ill. — an upscale suburb about 10 miles west of Chicago — the daughter of an attorney and the second of four children. She attended the highly selective Fenwick High School, followed by Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in international studies and became a key organizer of the university's annual Foreign Affairs Symposium in 2008. The event draws high-profile speakers from around the world.
Those who knew Smedinghoff described her as a positive, hardworking and dependable young woman.
While a student in Baltimore, she worked part time for Sam Hopkins, an attorney near campus. He described her as ambitious “but in a wonderfully quiet, modest way.”
Her first assignment for the foreign service was in Caracas, and she volunteered for the Afghanistan assignment after that. Her father said family members would tease her about signing up for a less dangerous location, maybe London or Paris.
“She said, ‘What would I do in London or Paris? It would be so boring,'” her father recalled. In her free time, she would travel as much as possible, her father said.
Smedinghoff was an up-and-coming employee of the State Department who garnered praise from the highest ranks. She was to finish her Afghanistan assignment as a press officer in July. Already fluent in Spanish, she was gearing up to learn Arabic, first for a year in the United States then in Cairo, before a two-year assignment in Algeria.
Secretary of State John Kerry said during a news conference in Turkey that Smedinghoff was “vivacious, smart” and “capable.” Smedinghoff had assisted Kerry during a visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago.
He also described her as “a selfless, idealistic woman who woke up yesterday morning and set out to bring textbooks to school children, to bring them knowledge.”
Her father said the family knew the assignments were dangerous, though she spent most of her time on the U.S. Embassy compound. Trips outside were in heavily armored convoys — as was Saturday's trip that killed five Americans, including Smedinghoff. The Department of Defense did not release the names of the others who died: three soldiers and one employee.
“It's like a nightmare, you think will go away, and it's not,” her father said. “We keep saying to ourselves, we're just so proud of her, we take consolation in the fact that she was doing what she loved.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. clears police officer in Ferguson case, criticizes police force
- Tsarnaev’s lawyer admits he carried out Boston bombing
- Top Senate Republican to states: Ignore EPA carbon rules
- Expanded background checks pushed again on gun show, Internet purchases
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- Nurse who survived Ebola virus says Dallas hospital failed her
- Carnegie Mellon expert to school Congress on security
- North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Texas tickets win Powerball
- Foreign government gifts to family charity present candidacy hurdle for Hillary Clinton
- GOP senators pledge help if court bars health care law subsidies
- GOP admits defeat as Congress approves Homeland funding