#DidYouKnow is a Blog Series on www.jmnorthup.com and www.nornstriad.com

A scared girl was brave enough to write the leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, and the result is life-changing. This regular kid from Maine, Samantha Smith, leaves a mark in history, showing that one person does make a difference – even the smallest voice matters. Not only did she receive a response, but she was invited to visit the Russia. Samantha became America’s Youngest Ambassador.

Writer, teacher and historian Lena Nelson wrote an email that helps to explain just how significant Samantha’s actions were. She wrote: “For my generation of the Soviet children growing up in the early 1980s, the word ‘American’ meant only one thing—an enemy, similar to that of the Nazi Germany during WWII. Seeing Samantha and her parents on my TV that summer and realizing that they looked and acted ‘just like us’ was an eye-opening experience. It was hard to think of Americans as enemies.”

Samantha spoke to reporters and was quoted to say: “Some people have the wrong impression about the Soviets. [They] want peace like I do.”

Samantha continued to spend her life as a peace advocate, touring as a goodwill ambassador. She spoke during the in Kobe, Japan. In addition, this amazing young woman was a rising actress. She had a TV special, where she was a special correspondent for the Disney Channel, called Samantha Smith Goes to Washington: Campaign ’84.

Unfortunately, this activist was taken from us too soon. She died in a plane crash in August 1985 alongside her father. Samantha was only 13 years old.

I lived during the Cold War. Samantha Smith represented me in the world – she was my contemporary: we were both females of the same age with the same fears and concerns. She was able to be the voice I wish I had… being listened to by some of the most powerful people in the world. In many ways, her actions were more significant than the fall of the Berlin Wall because it proved ideas and words changed the world. The most unlikely enemies came together in peace because someone wrote a letter…

Samantha authored a book about her trip to
the Soviet Union.