Samantha Smith, the Short Life of a Child Peace Activist

By | June 30, 2018

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Flowers adorn the statue of Samantha Smith by the Statehouse complex in Augusta. Staff Photo by Fred J. Field, Friday, July 11, 2003: Flowers adorn the statue of Samantha Smith by the Statehouse complex in Augusta. (Photo by Fred Field/Portland Press Hera

Although her life was tragically short, a young schoolgirl from Maine helped to thaw some of the Cold War tensions during the early 1980s and became America’s Youngest Ambassador. Samantha Smith relished this role, which took her to the Soviet Union and to Japan, then onto Hollywood. The meteoric rise of this star, however, was interrupted by a tragic accident. 

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The Maine Schoolgirl Was Worried About Cold War Tensions

Samantha was born in Houlton, Maine, on June 29, 1972. Her family, including her father, Arthur Smith, a literature professor, and her mother, Jane Goshorn, a social worker, lived in Manchester, Maine, where Samantha attended Manchester Elementary School.

When she was just ten years old, Samantha expressed her concern about nuclear proliferation and the threat of war with the Soviet Union. Yuri Andropov has just taken over as the leader of the Soviet Union from Leonid Brezhnev in November of 1982 and the American news outlets of the time labeled this as a threat to national security. The main concern was the build-up of military arms and the development of weapons that could be launched from space. Many people in the United States and around the globe viewed the elevation of Andropov to lead the Soviet Union as the first step in an eventual nuclear war between the two superpowers.