AMERICA’S YOUNGEST AMBASSADOR
Samantha Smith (1972-1985)
“God made the world for us to share and take care of. Not to fight over or have one group of people own it all.” S. Smith, 1982
This is the second time I’ve gotten an idea about a statue from watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show with Jane Pauley (the first one was actually responsible for the birth of this blog) so I wanted to give this informative and highly entertaining show a shout out. If you’re not watching or streaming it, you should be.
Let’s meet our statue-of-the-month. Samantha Smith is, according to writer Elliot Holt, “One of them;” a legendary girl like Joan of Arc, who despite her youth and short-lived years has made a lasting impression on our planet’s history. Her timeless message of hope and peace are just as important today as it was during the Cold War. Russia has often been called a “Sleeping Bear,” and Samantha at the tender age of ten, wasn’t afraid to get in the cave with it and confront nuclear devastation head on. And for that reason she deserves all that she was given: a bronze statue, stamps, books, and a designed school holiday.
Here’s what you need to know about Samantha. In 1982, when she was in fifth grade and a student attending an elementary school in Manchester, Maine she wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, the then leader of the Soviet Union, and asked him to think deeply before he embarked in war with the United States (https://alphahistory.com/coldwar/letters-samantha-smith-yuri-andropov-1983/. Bold on her part, but not unusual. Before the internet and social media, school kids wrote letters all the time to politicians, athletes, movie stars. But her letter differed in one respect; the leader of the Soviet Union responded. He not only wrote back but he invited Susan and her family to Russia on a mission of peace. And Susan with her engaging personality and good diplomatic instincts won over the Russian people. Samantha took her ambassador job very seriously and refused to be a political puppet on a string. Peace was her goal and comradery between two combative nations was her mission. A tall task for a girl without any formal negotiation training. But what Samantha lacked in resolution strategies, she more than made up for it with extras doses of tenacity.
Then the naysayers arrived and claimed that she was being used by both sides. They said she was nothing more than pint-sized war propaganda machine. None of that deterred Samantha. She used her celebrity to write a book, become an actress and inspire children of all ages and cultures to speak out against nuclear war. But sadly, at the age of thirteen, she and her father were killed in a plane crash. We can only wonder what she would’ve accomplished had she lived to adulthood.
Here’s where you can pay tribute to such an amazing girl:
· A bronze statue of Samantha Smith resides near the Maine Street Museum in Augusta
· Visit a peace garden in Michigan along the St. Clair River
· In Maine, the first Monday in June is designed as Samantha Smith Day
· Her image is posted on a stamp
· Read “America’s Youngest Ambassador: The Cold War Story of Samantha Smith’s Lasting Message of Peace” by Lena Nelson
· Peruse “Journey to the Soviet Union” by Samantha Smith
· Check out “You Are One of Them” by Elliot Holt
Ms. Smith was able to accomplish all these things by age thirteen. Impressive. If she was born today she probably would’ve become an influencer and social media phenom. But even in the 1980’s she made quite a stir. Even though Samantha hadn’t yet turned eighteen, she still has a place among all our other monuments of the matriarchy. She rocks-and what a story she has to tell.