Happy 80th Birthday, Anne Frank! We need you more than ever.
"With a diary kept in a secret attic, she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity." --Time (1999), naming Anne Frank with the heroes and icons of the 20th century on their list of The Most Important People of the Century.
Anne Frank was born just 80 years ago in Frankfurt, Germany on June 12, 1929. A Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis with her family, Anne kept her sanity before her capture and subsequent death in a concentration camp by recording her thoughts in a diary. That diary, given to Anne on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944. It became a classic when it was published after her death: The Diary of a Young Girl, one of the most widely read books in the world.
As we reel this week from the fatal shootings and deaths in Washington DC's Holocaust Museum, initiated by a man with a virulently anti-Semitic past...
when we view photographic evidence of unspeakable acts of torture inflicted by our military in prisons far and not-so-far away...
when indigenous defenders of the Amazon jungle are gunned down like criminals...
elections are so suspect that the citizenry must riot in the streets...
a Minuteman leader is apprehended for a double homicide in AZ...
...we ponder with broken hearts our own human capacity for evil and struggle to find the hope we need to remain faithful to working for justice and peace.
These quotations, taken from Anne's diary, are worth recalling today as a celebration of her life, her voice, her courage, her open heart. In Anne we find the antidote to despair that we sometimes desperately need:
On our infinite possibilities:
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
On the restorative power of nature:
"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be."
On personal power:
"The final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."
On human nature and hope:
"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. ... I think peace and tranquility will return again."
"Whoever is happy will make others happy, too."
On human potential:
"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!"
Happy birthday, Anne! Your life, your spirit is as relevant as ever. May we, the living who are blessed with your example and inspiration, live today more fully and humanly.