April 29, 2019
Contact: Tim Beauchemin Loudoun Country Day School
Phone: (703) 777-3841 Email: email@example.com
At the Virginia History Day competition, held on Saturday, April 27th, Loudoun Country Day School eighth grader, Grace Hawkins won the George C. Marshall Prize in Diplomacy for her documentary about Samantha Smith, America’s “Littlest Diplomat.” The award is granted by the George C. Marshall International Center.
Grace earned a spot at the state-level competition by winning the junior individual documentary category at the Northern Virginia district-level event held on March 2nd. This year’s theme is “Triumph and Tragedy.”
Grace’s ten-minute documentary tells the story of Samantha Smith, an eleven year old from Maine, whose letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov catapulted her into the national spotlight and led to an invitation from Andropov to visit the Soviet Union in 1983. Grace also analyzed whether Samantha’s trip represented a diplomatic triumph during the Cold War or Soviet manipulation. The ultimate tragedy was Samantha’s death in a plane crash just two years later.
Grace’s research led her to correspond with Samantha’s mother, Jane, who said via email, “Arthur and I, as parents, allowed the trip because we thought it was a good thing for both countries to see the other as a country of families and people who are in many ways very like us. We are all human, wanting the best for our families.” Responding to Grace’s question about Samantha’s legacy, Mrs. Smith said, “At this point in history, only 30 some years later, some people remember Samantha well, some have forgotten her entirely or never heard the story…I personally remember well the sweet, funny, smart, caring child I once had.”
Grace is one of twelve Loudoun Country Day students whose performance at the district-level competition qualified them to advance to the state-level competition during the past five years; more than any other Loudoun County middle school. Three of those students won at the state-level and participated at the national-level competition. National History Day is a non-profit organization that has been sponsoring and coordinating this interscholastic competition since 1974.