The Peace Abbey proposes the development of The Peace Literature Project in Honor of Samantha Smith to educate students about peace and promote peace literature for school-age children in 50 selected pilot schools across the United States.
The project honors Samantha Smith, a young American girl who asked a simple question and changed the attitudes of two great nations.
In the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union were still in the grip of a Cold War – a struggle between Western democracy and communism as systems of government. Each country threatened the other with destruction by nuclear weapons, and kept making more and more of them. Ten-year-old Samantha Smith worried about war and dreamed of peace. So she wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, the new leader of the Soviet Union: “Dear Mr. Andropov,” she wrote, “I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to have a war or not…?”
He did not answer right away, but a few months later there was a phone call waiting for her at the principal’s office at her school in Manchester, Maine. And so began her amazing journey…
Samantha’s journey to the Soviet Union came to symbolize peace between the two nations. She proved that one person can make a real difference. Her courage, faith, and determination to make a positive change in the world make her a hero for all ages.
After returning to America, she was invited to appear on television often. She was host of a Disney Channel special educating kids about the candidates in the 1984 presidential campaign, she spoke at an international children’s conference in Japan, she starred in the Lime Street television series. And she wrote the book “Journey to the Soviet Union.”
Sadly, on August 25, 1985, Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash. They were on their way home from London where she had finished filming a segment for the TV series. She was then 13 years old. Around the world, people remembered the inspiring girl and her famous trip. A school in Sammamish, Washington, was named for Samantha, and in Russia there were many memorials including a postage stamp in honor of their young American friend.
Unfortunately, while Samantha effectively illustrated the power each of us has to make a difference in our world, many people today are not familiar with her story. “Journey to the Soviet Union” – now out of print – is a powerful record of her accomplishment. We believe that Samantha’s message and the courage with which she delivered it can continue to inspire and empower people of all ages.
Inspired by the students of the Life Experience School, the Peace Literature Project in Honor of Samantha Smith will educate students about peace and promote peace literature for school-age children. It is the dream of the Peace Literature Project that some day every American school and town will have a section of its library devoted entirely to peace.