Malia to American

Malia graduated from Carrboro High School last week (in a ceremony held in the UNC-CH Dean Dome). As student government vice president, she had the honor of addressing the student body with an upbeat welcome message (along with the president) and then, at the end of the ceremony, leading the class in the turning of their tassels.

I’m very proud of Malia. She weathered the interruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic that made the last few years tough on all students, and she finished with high grades and accolades from her teachers and school administrators. She also gave our home a constant buzz of activity, especially during her senior year when so many of her friends came by each day for lunch.

Malia is smart, sensitive, kind, and passionate about societal issues and world events. In the fall she’ll be off to American University to study international service. Washington is the perfect place for Malia and we know she will excel there.

Back when she was applying to colleges and expressed her interest in American, I had a hunch that there might be an interesting connection to that university. I was born nearby, at the Georgetown University Hospital, and I remembered that my mother had a relative who worked for the State Department around that time. Joseph Sisco, who I think is probably a cousin of my grandfather—I’ve spent a few hours trying to find the connection, but I haven’t been able to fill in the family tree yet—was a diplomat who served under Henry Kissinger in the Nixon Administration.

I called up my father, and then later my mother, and they both told me the same story: In 1970, just after I was born, and before we moved to California so my dad could help a friend run for Congress, they took me to Foggy Bottom and stepped into the reception area of the State Department. My mother asked the receptionist to call up to Ambassador Sisco to let them know we were downstairs, and sometime later he came down for a chat. I imagine he patted me on my infant head, asked about my grandfather and listened to my dad talk about his Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic and my mom’s teaching in the District, and then he quickly said goodby and returned to his office upstairs to solve another crisis in Palestine or Egypt or Cyprus. This obituary in the Guardian chronicles his important role in Mideast tensions of the 1970s.

After Joseph Sisco retired from the State Department, he served as president of American University for five years.

It’s wild to think, as we mark 50 years since the Watergate break-in, that my head was touched by a hand that shook the hand of Kissinger, whose hand shook the hand of the soon-to-be-disgraced Richard Nixon.

More importantly, now my child is headed back to D.C. to start her own career in international service.



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