Greg Smith: Boy Wonder and new Wahoo
UVA registration is always a bit hectic, but this year the frenzy was stirred by international attention. Greg Smith, whose 14th birthday happened to also fall on registration day, Monday, June 9, balanced signing up for classes on subjects such as "Real Analysis and Linear Spaces" with interviewing and posing for pictures for media outlets from near and far.
The Keswick-based teen with an earnest gaze and signature blond bowl cut graduated in May from Randolph-Macon at the tender age of 13. To say there's international interest in his endeavors would be an understatement of magnificent proportion.
He's been nominated for two Nobel Peace prizes already (2002's and this year's, which he still has a chance to win, if he can beat out his 149 fellow nominees including President Bush, Jaques Chirac, and U2's Bono).
The reason for his nomination? Smith is the founder and board chairman of International Youth Advocates, a nonprofit organization whose mission as stated on its website is to "promote principles of peace and understanding among young people throughout the world..."
In furthering his cause, Smith has met with a multitude of world leaders including past president Bill Clinton and South African archbishop Desmond Tutu. As for media attention, it's impossible to list every time Greg's been featured. Oprah, The Today Show, Sixty Minutes and Late Night With David Letterman are but a few shows whose invitations he has accepted. He's also graced the covers of numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Washington Post Magazine and The New York Times Magazine.
His tenure at UVA has just begun; he'll be working on a Ph.D. in mathematics, the first of four planned doctorate degrees. And he's already got plans for sometime after his 35th birthday.
"I'd like to become president," he has said seriously on several occasions.
So how does he stay grounded?
Would you believe video games and Nascar?
We put Smith in the Hot Seat to see just what makes this prodigy tick his answers may surprise you.
What brought you here? Graduate school at the University of Virginia
What's worst about living here? No arcade in Fashion Square Mall, but nice remodeling
Favorite hangout? Downtown Mall
Most overrated virtue? No virtues are overrated; we all need to live a life of moral choices.
What would people be surprised to know about you? How much I enjoy NASCAR
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? That I am too young to drive
What accomplishment are you proudest of? Helping to bring together three warring tribes in Kenya– the Samburu, Turkana, and Pokot– in peace. We are building an Amani Peace School where the children of all three tribes will learn and grow together.
What do people find most annoying about you? My math jokes that no one understands, such as "A picnic is a function on a field."
Whom do you admire? Mahatma Gandhi
Favorite book? Archimedes' The Method
What subject causes you to rant? The diplomatic stranglehold of semantics
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? The limitless possibilities for a new biomedical century
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The apathy of those who somehow believe that the suffering of others is not their responsibility
What do you drive? Still too young; ask me again in two years.
What's in your car tape/CD player right now? AfroCelts
What's your next journey? Academically, the pursuit of a mathematical PhD. Globally, the connection and empowerment of young people around the world to value education, compassion, justice and freedom
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in?
I have too much respect for others to get into trouble.
What do you regret? That so many children die everyday from preventable illnesses, starvation and violence
Favorite comfort food? Baked Ziti
What's always in your refrigerator? Chocolate Milk
Must-see TV? The Agency
Favorite cartoon? Scooby Doo
Describe a perfect day. Hiking the White Oak Canyon-Cedar Run Trail
Walter Mitty fantasy? Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge first held by the tutor of Isaac Newton and then by Newton himself
Who'd play you in the movie? Jake Lloyd
Most embarrassing moment? Too embarrassing to tell
Best advice you ever got? Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has asked me to ask all of you to think of us as a family. When we look upon the world as one family, we will no longer be able to turn our backs on the suffering of others. We will no longer send a band-aid to heal a mortal wound. We will no longer point a weapon at our brothers.
Favorite bumper sticker? Wahoo Country