“My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old.”

So began the simple letter that ultimately made a little girl from Maine an international ambassador for peace in the early 1980s.

Smith, born in Houlton in 1972, was living in Manchester when she sent her famous letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov in 1982.

She died 25 years ago today while coming home to Maine, forever linking her to the people of Lewiston-Auburn.

An inexperienced crew operating a Bar Harbor Airline flight from Logan Airport made an errant approach to the Auburn-Lewiston Regional Airport during a rainstorm.

The Beechcraft 99 commuter plane struck trees 4,000 feet short of the runaway, killing eight people, including Smith and her father.

At the time of her letter, Ronald Reagan was president and Andropov was the newly appointed general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.

His stern visage appeared in newspapers and on news magazine covers, accompanied by articles describing him as a Soviet “hardliner” and a menace to the United States.

The Soviet Union was in the third year of its war in Afghanistan, and the United States was supplying arms to the rebel forces there.

Tensions were high; people were afraid, particularly of nuclear war. The nuclear arms race was in full stride.

Smith, in her letter, asked the Soviet leader three disarmingly simple questions:

“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.”

She asked, “…why do you want to conquer the world or at least our country?”

Finally, she admonished the Soviet leader: “God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.”

Andropov wrote her a lengthy reply, telling Smith “you are a courageous and honest girl …”

Smith was an instant celebrity and, with her cherubic face and outgoing personality, perfect for her new role.

Andropov invited her to the Soviet Union, a trip she made in July 1983, along with a Soviet and American entourage.

She went on to serve as an informal peace ambassador for the U.S., hosted a children’s special for the Disney Channel and co-starred with Robert Wagner in a TV series called “Lime Street.”

After twenty-five years, Samantha Smith’s goal of world peace continues to elude the U.S. and much of the world.

After ten years of fighting, the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, having lost nearly 14,000 soldiers.

Now, U.S. forces are closing in on 10 years fighting a similar insurgent force in Afghanistan with no end in sight.

Today, we live less with the fear of nuclear war as with the ever-present threat of terrorist attack on our own soil, and we still have 50,000 troops on the ground in Iraq.

Samantha Smith’s dream of peace remains unrealized 25 years after her untimely death.

In his letter of condolence to Smith’s mother, President Reagan expressed what we all remember about her today: “Her smile, her idealism and unaffected sweetness of spirit.”

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