I was fourteen-years-old when I first read The Diary of Anne Frank in my eighth grade English class. Although I admired her courage, the conclusion of her journey didn’t fully resonate with me until I experienced life as an adult. Unfortunately, my teenage years were a bit too comfortable as a corollary of my pleasant surroundings. Despite my compassion for other beings, the sterile environment in Kirkland, Washington, somewhat hindered my capacity to profoundly relate. It wasn’t until my ripening twenties that Anne Frank’s diary inspirited my path.
As a grown-up in the real world, I quickly realized how aloof and insouciant our society could be. People in general surrendered too easily by way of excuses. Consequently, I was terribly disappointed by the depth of cowardice that was exhibited by the vast majority. They enabled fear to sadly predicate the direction of their lives. Their exorbitant concern with failure persuaded them to settle for less, and thereby, compromise their true potential. Perhaps it was naïve of me, but I was taken aback that they didn’t even “try.” They pathetically refused to attempt the effort since the conclusion was unknown. For the illusion of security and social acceptance was far more important to them. This woeful observation of our society helped me to discern the profundity of Anne Frank’s precious character.
In spite of the atrocious circumstance, Anne Frank, who was merely a budding teenager, made a passionate effort to live in the moment, notwithstanding the unknown. Her precarious situation didn’t prevent her from embracing the fight — as her “iron will” was too indomitable to yield, despite the constant anxiety. Of all people, Anne Frank had a legitimate excuse to give up, yet she never quit. She continued to strive through the inward malaise and daily frustrations that plagued her. Although her life had ended tragically in a concentration camp, the heroic effort that she displayed inspired the world, and in turn, changed it for the better.
This sacred effort was also demonstrated by Martin Luther King, Jr. Though racism continues to exist in our modern-day lives, his effort to strive for equality helped America evolve. Similar to Anne Frank, his death was untimely and tragic, yet nonetheless, his assassination couldn’t derail the resonating impact of his attempt to unify humanity. The magnitude of his devoted effort was immeasurable.
Alas, the vast majority still overlooks the effort, placing absolute emphasis on the result. They lack the intelligence to comprehend the entire picture — for success or failure is beside the point. The only thing that matters is the audacity to try, demonstrated beautifully by tenacious individuals like Jaime Escalante, the much revered high school teacher, who tried wholeheartedly to teach the art of calculus to his marginalized students. Whether or not he succeeded was more or less irrelevant. What mattered in the end was his genuine effort to be of assistance.
And then there was Rosa, who intrepidly refused — to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger in 1955. In that defining moment, she wasn’t driven by the aftermath, for that was totally unknown. She merely followed her heart by defying the laws of segregation, which transcended her being into the iconic Rosa Parks. And once again, it was the effort that created her alchemy.
And of course, there was Tank Man, who stood valiantly in Tiananmen Square, obstructing the pathway of a horde of tanks. This 1989 occurrence had riveted the world; sparked by the effort of this everyday man. What happened to him afterward was pretty much a mystery, but his effort to dissent continues to inspire — the inquiring youth of today’s generation.
Although I’m astonished by the gallantry of individuals like Tank Man or Anne Frank, I don’t expect the vast majority to endure their intense degree of hardships — for their destiny was freakishly punishing. Yet nevertheless, I do expect our society to put forth an effort to ascend from the trenches of their personal valleys, no matter the depth. I do expect an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to the matters of the heart. For the human rights that we enjoy today like our freedom of speech was brought to fruition via the tireless efforts of those who had spiritually fought throughout our history. We owe it to them — to be true to ourselves instead of acquiescing to the status quo of spineless cowards and their contentment with mediocrity.
Obviously, remaining true to oneself is a formidable challenge, fraught with pressure and numerous obstacles; but we cannot eschew it. It’s our duty to this miracle of life to do our part…even if it hurts. Ultimately, it’s the invaluable effort that changes lives, irrespective of our success or failure.
Photo credit: Tien Phan
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