Close your eyes. Picture being stripped of everything you had ever owned; everything you had ever known. Stripped of your freedom, your dignity, your value as a human being. Marked with a yellow star, branding you as inferior. A target for verbal and physical assault. Forced into hiding. Living in constant uncertainty and fear. Left to wonder how long until you or your family are executed. This horrific scene is not fictional, but rather the tragic reality of Anne Frank, who recorded the horrors and heartache of history in her diary.
It is my great pleasure to welcome you here today to unveil Lluis Ribas’s portrait of Anne Frank. Anne’s face is not that of a hero, rather just a smiling girl with playful eyes, insightful beyond their tender years. Anne’s gaze does not rest upon what is in front of her, instead her focus probes the horizon, toward the future and the opportunities it holds. Over the years, the powerful messages captured from Anne’s diary, have offered encouragement to millions. Her courage, faith, resilience and optimism in the face of such overwhelming adversity continues to inspire generations today.
Although her journal revealed glimpses of the vulnerable teenager she was, Anne managed to find fortitude, despite hardship. Her resilience, courage, strength and determination while hiding in the secret annexe was truly inspiring. She knew that leaving the attic would likely result in her death, yet despite feeling trapped and scared, she persevered. Her words resonate with many people around the world, shaping her as a positive role model for many generations. Anne states that “I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn” (Page 196). Despite the horror, hopelessness and loss that Anne had to live in, her hope for a better future never faded, nor her undying belief in God and his protection. Anne found the light amid the darkness showing that “Beauty remains, even in misfortune” (Frank, 1947). Anne’s optimism demonstrated her willingness to see the good in humankind.
Six million people. Almost a quarter of Australia’s population, or, 1 million people more than now live in all of Queensland. That is how many were exterminated in the worst genocide of the twentieth century. Anne was but one, however, her message of social justice, freedom and equality for all remain as relevant and important today. The Diary of Anne Frank is a powerful story used to educate and empower young people to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination, in whatever package it comes disguised in. While Anne endures affliction frequently, her hope for the future never fades, and her enduring spirit is the quintessence of courage and equality for all.
The atrocities that Anne Frank endured throughout her life did not tarnish the way she saw the world. Horror, hopelessness and loss depicting the life Anne was stuck in, one where most people would have relinquished and spiralled into despair and hopelessness. But not Anne. She pushed through the darkness, making her the epitome of optimism. Whilst enduring affliction, Anne never lost hope showing her willingness to see the good in humankind. Anne wrote on July 15, 1944, that “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.” (Page 237).
By commemorating Anne’s life through this portrait, it illustrates the modern-day relevance of her experience. Her story of perseverance, courage, compassion and hope amid despair continue to inspire us today and is why Anne’s message of social justice and equality for all remain as important today as it did 74 years ago. In leaving her story, she left a legacy. One that still lights fires in the hearts of those who read it. Faith hope and love. That is her legacy. “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!” (Frank, 1947). And indeed, she does, through the power of her words and now, through this portrait.