“I don't think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains,” Anne Frank wrote in her “Diary of a Young Girl.”
How fitting, then, that the ceremony for the 2015 Anne Frank Awards for Human Dignity and Tolerance—awarded to New York Times writer Nich
kolas Kristof and Cindy McCain, wife of Senator John McCain, was held in the stately Member’s Room of the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. Adding to the beauty of the day were two young girls, not much older than the teenage Anne was when she was killed, who had been sold as sex slaves in the United States and now help other girls leave that life and begin anew.
Kristof and McCain won for their work highlighting human trafficking around the world, including the United States, where 300,000 young girls and women are sold into the sex trade each year. The Anne Frank awards were launched a few years ago, by the Anne Frank Center USA, the Congressional Dutch Caucus, the Anne Frank House Amsterdam and the Royal Netherlands Embassy, “to keep alive the lessons [Anne’s] life teaches us about tolerance and the importance of defending human rights.”
The two young women helped present the award to Kristof and told their story of meeting him for an interview. During their conversation, they giggled, Oprah called. But Kristof didn’t take the call. “He told her he’d have to call her back.”
A hefty list of Congressmen, Senators and ambassadors paid tribute to Kristof and McCain, and to Anne Frank. “I read her diary when I was about the age Anne was when she was killed and now I have a daughter that age,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The day included many moments of the great beauty Anne Frank wrote about including performances by cellist Ignacio Alcovar, a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, and photographs from an exhibit by photographer Kay Churnish, called “Bought and Sold” about the sex trafficking trade. “Looking outward through the victims’ eyes,” writes Churnish, in her introduction to the exhibit, “the images challenge us to imagine the daily horrors, tedium, desperation and ambiguities of their lives – and to take action.”
Churnish is president and artistic director and Alcover is a member of ArtWorks for Freedom, which combines exhibits, performances, film series, lectures and creative opportunities for dialogue to bring draw attention to human trafficking. In 2011 Alcover and Churnish were among several artists who collaborated on a multimedia performance, “In Plain Sight,” about the terrors of those imprisoned by human trafficking.
Art might seem like an odd way to convey that, until you consider another entry in Anne Frank’s diary: “I've found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.”
Francesca Lunzer Kritz is a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Maryland.