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Close your eyes and picture being stripped of every possession you have worked for. From everything you have ever known, including your dignity and freedom. Forcibly marked with a yellow star, branding you as inferior, marking you as an open target. Verbally harassed and physically attacked without cause. No longer valued as a human, but equal to that of a sewer rat. You are forced to hide, knowing it is only a matter of time until you and your family, are taken to be executed. You live in constant uncertainty and fear. There is no one to turn to. Everyone is your enemy. How do you protect your loved ones from being murdered? How do you survive? This horrific scenario is not fictional. Anne Frank was one such girl, forced to go with her family into hiding to remain safe from certain death at the hands of the Nazis. As we are gathered here today, I am delighted to unveil Lluis Ribas’s portrait of Anne Frank. Looking at the distance, Anne is not focused entirely on what is in front of her but rather to the future and the opportunities it holds. In this portrait, Anne is depicted as a girl looking at the positive, not stuck in the negative, fixated on her thoughts. Over the years, Anne’s powerful words and insights that were captured in her diary, have offered encouragement to millions living amid war, violence, injustice, and fear. Her courage, bravery, resilience, and optimism in the face of such overwhelming adversity continue to be an inspiration to generations today.
The courage Anne exhibited while hiding in the secret annex shows her determination to go on. She knows that leaving the attic will likely result in her death. She is trapped and scared, yet she is courageous enough to go on. These are all situations in which she shows courage. While she endures these frequently, her hope for the future never fades, and her enduring spirit is the quintessence of courage. Anne states that “I want to go on living even after my death! I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn.’ She never allows the dismal situation around her to quench her love of life. Her words resonate with many people around the world, shaping her as a perfect role model for many generations.
If you look close enough, you can find many different themes in Anne Frank. But one that really stuck out to me was the idea of persistence. Her story shows that with persistence, you can get through any struggle and overcome any obstacle. Perseverance comes to those who keep their heads up when times get tough, stay positive, and adjust to difficult situations. This itself is the definition of perseverance. Anne Frank, in many ways, was a modern woman in her time and still serves as a role model for us today. She showed many that she was able to persevere through mockery and violence. And, despite all that was working against her, she succeeded. She lived like a teenager, right down to her own self-doubt, but also found an opportunity in adversity. As she put it, “Beauty remains, even in misfortune.” Reflecting on her previous life as a pampered middle-class kid, she wrote, “It’s a good thing that, at the height of my glory, I was suddenly plunged into reality. . .. I look back at that Anne Frank as a pleasant, amusing, but superficial girl, who has nothing to do with me.”
The atrocities that Anne Frank endured throughout her life did not tarnish the way she saw the world. Enduring more than most of us would in a lifetime leaving a story, a legacy. One that still lights fires in the hearts of those who read it. Her great optimism in the face of overwhelming adversity demonstrates her willingness to see the good in humankind. Saying, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart… I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again.” Courage. Optimism. Persistence. That is her legacy. It’s in anyone if you have the eye to see it. Shall we start?
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