Samantha Smith Challenge

2020-21 Show US Who You Are!

Step 1: Learn Samantha's Story


AWTT portrait of Samantha SmithIn December 1982, Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, asked her mother “[Who] would start a war and why."  Together they read a a news magazine story about America and Russia. It seemed that the people in both countries were worried that the other country would start a nuclear war. Samantha told her Mom that she should write to Mr. Andropov, the new head of state in the Soviet Union, to find out who was causing all the trouble. Her mother said, "Why don't you write to him?" So she did. AWTT created the SSC to honor Samantha Smith by encouraging students to act in her spirit.

Dear Mr. Andropov, 

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren't please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not fight. 


Samantha Smith

Although her letter was published in Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, Samantha couldn't understand why her questions had not been answered, so she wrote a second letter, this time to Soviet Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin. She asked him whether Mr. Andropov was planning to answer her questions, and added that "I thought my questions were good ones and it shouldn't matter if I was ten years old." She did not give up. From that one question, a peace-making venture unfolded that brought Russian and American students together to build understanding and appreciation of one another and to focus on building connections instead of armies. Sadly, in August 1985, both Samantha and her father were killed in a plane crash.

The Samantha Smith Challenge encourages every middle level and high school student and classroom to start making a difference in the world today, just as Samantha Smith did nearly 40 years ago.

Watch brief documentary of Samantha’s journey

Watch Samantha Smith interview with Ted Koppel

Watch Misha Klimov video - Samantha through the eyes of a child in the 1982 USSR


NEXT: Go to SSC, Steps 2 & 3 (Explore Identity; Connect with Changemakers)
BACK: Go to SSC, Getting Started (Mission, Background, How to Participate)