Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting Wednesday with Italian businessmen via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia. Credit: Alexei Nikolsky / Sputnik via AP

Letters submitted by BDN readers are verified by BDN Opinion Page staff. Send your letters to

Forty years ago, it took Maine’s darling daughter to ask a nation a poignant question when she penned a letter to Yuri Andropov, general secretary of the Soviet Union: “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.”

In her understandably poor 10-year-old grammar, the reply she got from Andropov stated, “we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants.”

For 40 years that promise has been kept, but as Russia stands on the border of Ukraine, it bears remembering when a little girl from Maine, in the midst of the Cold War, proved that the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

We in Maine have never forgotten Samantha Smith’s legacy or her direct questions from so many years ago, but the real question is: has Russia forgotten its reply?

For the sake of peace, I certainly hope not.

Travis S. Johnson