June 12th was the infamous Anne Frank’s birthday, and I want to take the time to remember her. To remember her and all that she stood for that is universally good about us as humans and individuals, because it is far too easy to forget.
A young girl who riveted the world with her journal entries, years after her horrifying death in a Nazi concentration camp, Anne holds a special place in my heart, as I’m sure she does in many. She shows a relatable character in her journal, one that is insecure, smart, and funny, and in need of love and reassurance in a world that has gone completely crazy around her. She is in each and every one of my students that I have taught in the twelve years of my teaching career, whether they are able to see her or not, and whether they enjoy reading her text in my classroom, or more likely, not.
Anne had an ability to see the world around her; despite being confined to the secret annex she shared with her family, family friends and acquaintance.
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness."
It is this basic goodness that appears time and time again in my students as we study the history of the Holocaust each spring and follow it up with a 20th century Genocide research project. This goodness is so prevalent within the kids, their outrage at such atrocities over such insignificant reasons such as the color of skin, who someone worships, or nonsensical stereotypes that have pervaded for centuries, is inspiring to see year after year. It gives me hope as an educator that there is potential for a better world tomorrow if these students can learn to apply these lessons daily and carry them throughout their lives.
Young people, just like Anne, can accomplish amazing feats, and I have seen this as well in my students. Inspired by an in class project, one such student, Jessie King, reached out to a Holocaust survivor, brought her to our school, created a group known as the I Remember Committee, and has continued to assist in bringing speakers to the school and community since 2011. Not only has she impacted my life incredibly as an educator and person, but the lives of her fellow classmates and community members because she heard Anne’s message and wanted to take action.
So, I owe a lot to Anne Frank for living the life she did, for being the person she was, for writing down her thoughts and feelings that were then captured and shared with the world. And we owe a lot to all of those affected by the Holocaust, by the genocides that have ensued since and are still ongoing today, to those who suffer from bullying and stereotyping, because Anne calls for us to remember that we all have an inherent goodness inside which connects us as human beings rather than members of one group or another. Human beings- with the same basic human needs and rights regardless of color, religion, sex, or any other labeling mechanism available today.
So, in lieu of how crazy the world has gotten around all of us, let’s heed Anne's word and take a moment to reflect, to remember, and to celebrate what makes us human, and try to hold on to that basic goodness that is within each and all.