Published Thursday, February 28, 2013
Anne Frank may well be the most famous 15-year-old author of the 20th Century. She penned but one volume, a diary, while hiding from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. “How wonderful it is,” she wrote, “that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Imagine it. Living each day for two years crammed in the hidden rooms of an office building, knowing that at any moment you might be found and hauled off to near-certain death at a concentration camp. Barely a teenager, she managed to write those and many other words of remarkable inspiration before she and her family were discovered in August 1944. They were sent to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where Anne died in March 1945, just three months before her 16th birthday.
How is it possible for a youngster to see so much light in a dark world, to find within herself so much hope and optimism amidst horror? What insight. What power. That’s been the magic of Anne Frank for the past seven decades.
Anne Frank’s message will be remembered for many more decades to come, hopefully forever. It reminds us that no matter the circumstances, we can make a difference. Our attitude, the old saying goes, determines our altitude. If you want to make a better world, start by making a better self; it’s the one thing you have considerable control over in almost any situation.
I share here the words of another inspiration, the late philosopher and teacher Dr. Christian D. Larson (1874-1962), who developed the Optimist Creed that is used by Optimist Clubs all over the world. He implored his fellow citizens to “Promise Yourself” the following:
“To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
“To make all your friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
“To think only the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
“To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
“To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
“To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but in great deeds. To live in faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”