Samantha Reed Smith (June 29, 1972 â€“ August 25, 1985) was an American schoolgirl from Manchester, Maine who was called “America’s Youngest Ambassador” in the United States and the “Goodwill Ambassador” in the Soviet Union during her lifetime. She became famous in these two countries and well-known worldwide after writing a letter to the Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Yuri Andropov during the Cold War, and receiving a reply from Andropov which included a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union, which Smith accepted. Assisted by extensive mass media attention in both countries, she participated in peacemaking activities in Japan  after her visit to the Soviet Union, wrote a book and co-starred in a television series before her death in an airplane crash.
SamanthaSmith.info – a really neat tribute site dedicated to her life
I’m not sure why my memory was jogged, but tonight I did a google search on hazy memory from my childhood and found that I remembered right. (WARNING- Long rambling walk down memory lane ahead)
I think I was about 9, maybe 10 years old when I first read about her (I think maybe in 1985/6-ish). My family was traveling in Colorado (a combination business trip for my dad and family vacation) when were in Vail. While there, my Mom and brothers had some time to kill one afternoon while my Dad was in a meeting so we stopped at the public library, and in the library I remember reading in a kid’s magazine (I wish I remembered the name of it) about Samantha Smith.
To say the least I was inspired by her (and definitely rather smitten too), that she had the self-confidence to write a letter to the President of the USSR like that, and because of that got to visit the country and see for herself what things were like, but then at the end of the article I read how that she had died in a plane crash and was crushed.
Anyway, that memory is interesting to me now. You have to remember that this was at the height of the Cold War and as a kid I thought Ronald Reagan was the greatest thing since sliced bread. You would think that I wouldn’t have been taken so much by a young peacemaker like Samantha, but I was. In fact to my young heart and mind, it seemed like her question was the most logical thing in the world to ask.
I of course was immersed in another reality, the belief in the ever present threat of the Soviet Union and in the goodness of the USA and its cause against Communism; as a result I didn’t let Samantha’s question really incubate like it should have. Yet, the fact that the question and her life sparked my imagination on that summer afternoon in Colorado to me is a confirmation that what I believe now about peace is something that was always in my heart and I just needed to right space to let it out.
I think also her example inspired me in that it showed the power of empowerment. As a kid, I tended to escape into the realms of imagination to deal with an otherwise pretty oppressive school environment, but she acted in bold ways in the real world. I think as a 10 year old kid, that this really moved me.