Boy wonder: Smith for prez?
What's next for child prodigy Greg Smith? After graduating from college at 13, he arrived at UVA in 2003 to begin the first of four planned PhDs.
Since then, Smith, shown below in a 2003 photo, has grown up a bit. He's now 16, and like a lot of kids his age, he's planning to attend the Rolling Stones show in October, and he's learning to drive a car. But he's no less driven by his two passions: learning and spreading peace through his nonprofit agency, International Youth Advocates, which has funneled $1 million to needy children around the world since Smith founded it five years ago.
The Hook caught up with the busy Nobel Peace Prize nominee to see how life is treating the genius teen.
HOOK: Where do you stand in the Ph.D. program?
GREG: I'm planning to receive my Master of Science Degree in May of 2006 and am on track to receive my Doctor of Philosophy degree in Mathematics in May of 2008. My plans remain consistent; the next field of study will be either biology or law. But I still have a few years to decide.
How is life in graduate school different from life as an undergrad?
There's more personal responsibility combined with a professional camaraderie and respect.
How do you explain your amazing intellectual accomplishments?
Through high school (in Florida), I went through course work quickly. I was able to assimilate information at a rapid rate. In college (and now in grad school), I went through at the normal rate. I do definitely have to work hard.
How do you get along with your graduate school colleagues?
I've developed a very positive working relationship with the grad students and professors. I have great respect for their talents and dedication to our field and enjoy joining them for lunch on the Grounds or the Corner.
Do you prefer to spend time socializing with people older than you?
I don't distinguish friends by age groups. Friendships are built on similar interests, and I have very diverse interests outside my academic life: international travel, politics, music, and all types of sports.
What will you do with four Ph.D's?
I've always wanted to enter politics and be president [of the United States]. Toward that end, I'm going to be working over the next 10, 15 years to prepare. I have a couple more years of good studying to get in.
When you make your run, what ticket will you be on?
I have strong political beliefs, but I try to keep them to myself because I'm trying right now to work with both political parties.
Okay, but do you have any feelings about the current administration?
I have strong views. We face a very challenging situation, and we need to have a strong focus. We have an amazing opportunity as the strongest county. We could take a proactive role. Our government is working so hard to deal with problems, but there's so much more we can do. When I do start running for office, I'll have very strong political views.
On a lighter note, two years ago, you revealed a passion for Nascar. Do you still watch?
I always will love Nascar.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I like all music. I'm a big fan of the Afro Celts. Because of my strong moral standards, I don't listen to most kinds of rap because of the profanity. It's a personal choice for me. My family brought me up with moral values, to recognize the importance of living a moral life.
Have you gotten your driver's license? Do you have your own car?
I have my learner's permit, but I'm not quite old enough for my driver's license. I bought my first car recently (a 2005 blue Cavalier, of course, because of the Virginia Cavaliers) and am having a great time driving everywhere...of course, with a licensed driver with me.
How about dating?
I think about it, but I'm not dating yet.
Any interesting trips lately?
I went to Mexico City and to three different cities in Brazil. I spoke to political, educational, religious, and corporate leaders and gave dozens of interviews to broadcast and print media. I met with humanitarian groups and visited children struggling to survive living as orphans and in extreme violent drug-riddled poverty.
In stark contrast. I also visited great programs that are succeeding in building strong life foundations encouraging these young people to work toward providing a positive self-sustaining future for themselves.
You had been nominated for the Nobel Prize twice when you spoke to The Hook in 2003. Have you received other awards since then?
Humbly, I have been nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize...2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. In January, I was presented the North Carolina State 2005 Role Model Leader Award.
[Other awards include 2004 We are Family Foundation Humanitarian Award, 2004 Selection Committee for NetAid Youth Humanitarian Awards, 2003 National Caring Award, 2003 Lion's Club Humanitarian Award. 2003 Present Co-Chair World of Children Awards]
Is there anything you wish you could do better?
The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. There is an endless list of things I wish I could do better, people I could help, and problems I could solve. We should try each day to be better, smarter, healthier, and more productive. And that victory will shine on all of our lives.
Do you ever worry about burning out?
No. I love every single next step along the process. If you love what you're doing and have a passion for it, you'll be so excited wherever it takes you.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO