Samantha Reed Smith

Samantha Reed Smith

Houlton, Aroostook County, Maine, USA
Death 25 Aug 1985 (aged 13)
Auburn, Androscoggin County, Maine, USA
Burial North Amity, Aroostook County, Maine, USA
Memorial ID 6161505 · View Source
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Actress, Cold War Peace Activist. She is fondly remembered for writing a letter, at the age of 10, to the newly appointed Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov, asking why he wants to go to war with the US and trying to understand why relations between the two countries was strained. Her letter prompted a personal reply from Andropov, assuring her the Soviet Union has no desire for war, but to live in peace, to which it attracted extensive media attention. Born Samantha Reed Smith, her father taught literature and writing at the University of Maine in Augusta, Maine, and her mother was a social worker with the Maine Department of Human Services. When she was five years old, she wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II of England, expressing admiration for her. In 1980 her family moved to Manchester, Maine where she attended elementary school. In November 1982 Andropov succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union. At this point, the US and the Soviet Union had abandoned their strategy of detente and in response to the Soviet deployment of SS-20 missiles, President Ronald Reagan moved to deploy cruise and Pershing II missiles to Europe. Also contributing to the tension was the Soviet Union's involvement in a war in Afghanistan, which was in its third year. On November 22, 1982, Time magazine published an issue with Andropov on the cover. When she saw the edition, she became concerned about the possibility of a war and at her mother's suggestion, she wrote Andropov a personal letter asking, "Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country?" Andropov was touched by her genuineness and replied that he had no such intention. He then invited her and her family to the Soviet Union for a special tour. She became an overnight sensation and was interviewed by Ted Koppel and Johnny Carson, among others, and with nightly reports by the major American networks. On July 7, 1983, she flew to Moscow with her parents, and spent two weeks as Andropov's guest. During the trip she visited Moscow and Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) and spent time in Artek, the main Soviet pioneer camp, in the town of Gurzuf on the Crimean Peninsula. Smith wrote a book about her travels called "Journey to the Soviet Union," and said that in Leningrad, she and her parents were amazed by the friendliness of the people and by the presents many people made for them. Speaking at a Moscow press conference, she declared that the Russians were "just like us." In Artek, she chose to stay with the Soviet children rather than accept the privileged accommodations offered to her. She shared a dormitory with nine other girls, and spent her time there swimming, talking and learning Russian songs and dances. She returned to her home state on July 22, 1983 and was dubbed "America's Youngest Ambassador." In December 1983 she was invited to Japan, where she met with the Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and attended the Children's International Symposium in Kobe, where she gave a speech in which she suggested that Soviet and American leaders exchange granddaughters for two weeks every year, maintaining that a president "wouldn't want to send a bomb to a country his granddaughter would be visiting." In 1984 she became a media celebrity by hosting a children's special for the Disney Channel entitled "Samantha Smith Goes To Washington...Campaign '84." The show covered politics, where she interviewed several candidates for the 1984 presidential election, including George McGovern and Jesse Jackson. That same year she guest starred in "Charles in Charge" as 'Kim', alongside another celebrity guest star, Julianne McNamara. In 1985 she co-starred with Robert Wagner in a television series called "Lime Street." On August 25, 1985, she and her father were returning home aboard Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after filming a segment for Lime Street. While attempting to land at Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport in Auburn, Maine, the aircraft struck some trees short of the runway and crashed, killing all six passengers, including her and her father, and the two crewmembers on board. She was 13 years old. After her death, the Soviet Union issued a stamp in her honor. In October 1985 her mother, Jane Reed Smith, founded the Samantha Smith Foundation, which fostered student exchanges between the US and the Soviet Union (and, after December 1991, the ex-Soviet successor states) until it became dormant in the mid-1990s. In 2008 she posthumously received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award for helping to bring about better understanding between the peoples of the two countries.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: K
  • Added: 7 Feb 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6161505
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Samantha Reed Smith (29 Jun 1972–25 Aug 1985), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6161505, citing Estabrook Cemetery, North Amity, Aroostook County, Maine, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated.