President Bill Clinton was in Little Rock Friday, where he addressed a crowd of several hundred on his presidential center grounds. He spoke for the opening ceremony of an Anne Frank Tree installation. Clinton said the diary of the Dutch-Jewish teenager, who went in hiding from the Nazis during World War II, should cause people to reflect on how tragic events shape our past and present.
“It is amazing to look at all human history and realize how much energy has been wasted by people obsessing about our differences and how vulnerable those people are to being taken advantage of by people who just really want power, money or both,” he said.
In addition to serving as a remembrance of the plight of Jews during the Holocaust, the Anne Frank Tree installation features glass panels commemorating the experiences of the Quapaw tribe, Japanese-Americans interned during World-War Two and the nine black students who integrated Little Rock's Central high school in 1957. Three panels are adorned with quotes from Chief Heckaton, the hereditary chief of the Quapaw during Arkansas's Indian Removal; Melba Patillo Beals of the Little Rock Nine; and actor George Takei, who lived in Desha County's Rowher Internment Camp in 1942.
Quotes from Clinton and Frank adorn two other panels. The five panels will surround the soon-to-be-planted sapling in order to suggest the feeling of being in a small room.
A sapling from the chestnut tree that stood outside of the house where the the Frank family hid from 1941 to 1944 currently resides in a greenhouse, acclimating to conditions in Arkansas. It will be planted at the installation when it has matured. The Clinton Center will become the eleventh location around the United States to plant an Anne Frank Tree sapling. One of the other ten is on the grounds of Little Rock's Central high school.
Clinton said Frank's story transcended her immediate lived experience, because it serves as a lesson for future generations.
“Her life is a constant reminder about how even young children can quickly be demonized and marked for death simply because of who they are,” he said.
Clinton also drew comparisons between the extreme ideologies of the Nazis and ISIS and made reference to his presidency's contemporaneous world tragedies, including the mass slaughters of ethnic groups in Rwanda and Bosnia.
Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House, Stephanie Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation, and Lexi Elenzweig of the Federation of Temple Youth at the Congregation B'nai Israel also made speeches.
You can listen to Clinton's remarks below.