Samantha Smith Challenge

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? [I saw] a news magazine with a story about America and Russia, one that had a picture of the new Russian leader, Yuri Andropov, on the cover. We read it together. It seemed that the people in both Russia and America were worried that the other country would start a nuclear war. It all seemed so dumb to me. I had learned about awful things that had happened during World War II, so I thought that nobody would ever want to have another war. I told Mom that she should write to Mr. Andropov to find out who was causing all the trouble. She said, 'Why don't you write to him?' So I did."

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.  In 2003, Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) honored Samantha by painting her portrait. 

In 2014, AWTT honored Samantha by creating the Samantha Smith Challenge. Samantha embodies both interconnectedness and working for the common good.  Through her courage and efforts she built connections between the people of two countries who thought they had nothing in common. Working for the common good, Samantha spread her message of the importance of creating understanding across real and perceived boundaries.

The Samantha Smith Challenge encourages every middle level and high school student and classroom to build connections and work for the common good, just as Samantha Smith did 40 years ago.

Read how Samantha's legacy is still honored and valued as we witness world events today.  

Check out a brief video of Samantha’s journey

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


NEXT: Go to SSC, Step 2 (Connect with Changemakers)
BACK: Go to SSC, Getting Started