"Truth Tellers" portrays moments when Robert Shetterly visits schools and libraries across the country and talks to students about the activists he's painted. In this scene, he presents a portrait of Samantha Smith, the Manchester girl who became known as a peace activist after she wrote to the leader of the Soviet Union, Yuri Andropov, in 1982. Credit: Courtesy of Kane-Lewis Productions

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Forty years ago, a little girl with an enormous heart and a gift of writing, sent a simple letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. Her message was direct and humble. In her short letter, she acknowledged both the power of her addressee and the vulnerability of innocent people all over the world. She asked him what he will do to help not have a war.

Andropov not only responded to   Samantha Smith, he invited her to Russia. Her family accepted the invitation and were hosted in Russia for two weeks in 1983. Did one letter stop a nuclear war? Maybe not. But peace comes like rain, not thunder. And a thousand drops of peace is exactly what’s needed in Russia right now.

Like Samantha Smith, I too was born 50 years ago, and I remember her story from when I was a kid. I am proud to know a little girl from just up the road in Maine had the wisdom to write these   simple words: “God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.” And I hope her letter will inspire the next generation of peacemakers to find their own words to remind everybody there’s no happiness without peace.

Jim Gorham

Kennebunk