One child can make a difference.
Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, did when in December 1982 she wrote a letter to Russian leader Yuri Andropov asking him if his country, the then-Soviet Union, was planning to start a nuclear war with the United States. At the time, which was known as “The Cold War,” the United States and the Soviet Union were enemies.
This week, in 1983, Andropov wrote the 10-year-old girl back and said the Russian people wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” Andropov replied directly to Samantha’s question of nuclear war, saying, “We in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth.”
Samantha and her parents accepted an invitation to visit Russia. The exchange of letters, and the visit, made Samantha an international celebrity and a peace ambassador who made speeches, wrote a book and played a role on a TV series.
Sadly, Samantha died in an airplane crash when she was 13.
Her letter turned out to be no small effort and it was felt around the world and is credited with one of the first signs that peace could happen between the world’s two superpowers, which was the term used to describe the U.S. and the Soviet Union during The Cold War.