Posts Tagged ‘Wicked Witch of the West’


The annual commencement speech at the University of Oz was delivered by the Wicked Witch of the West, her sister unable to attend the ceremony because she was bogged down with housework.

Good afternoon graduates. While it is customary to be warmly embraced by your commencement speaker, it is not in my purview to offer you hollow plaudits and pleasant platitudes. I will not coddle you, I will not play nice-nice with you, and I will most definitely not bull shit you.  You have a legitimate reason to celebrate because you did finish what you started out to do when you graduated from high school. That’s more than the close to 50% of college bound students can say who didn’t pass the finish line. But don’t get a swelled head. Across the fruited plains of America two million undergraduate degrees are being awarded.  Mathematically that means you are not even one in a million.

Economic statisticians love to point out that college graduates have a much higher life-time earning potential than non-graduates. Big deal. So you spent about $200,000 to get where you are today.  It will take you a decade to break even with your non-graduate contemporaries’ earnings. Imagine what you could have done with that $200,000.  Instead of earning 15 credits studying abroad for a semester, you could have actually lived abroad for four years and come away with a lifetime of valuable experiences.  You could have invested your $200,000 and bought a nice car with the interest.

But for the moment let’s forget about earning potential and let’s focus on what happened to you after four years on the Yellow Brick Road. What did you really learn? What did you really learn here in these hallowed halls and rolling hills that you couldn’t have learned somewhere else? How many hours did you spend in class and working on papers and projects that were wasted hours?  If your four years of college were an orange, how much juice would you have actually squeezed out?

If we were to be really honest you would know that it wasn’t the courses you took in college that made all the difference, but it was the course you set to navigate the waters of higher education. If you didn’t set a course, all the credit courses you took were for naught. But don’t think for a moment that your course had to be a rigid one because many a boat has been dashed upon the rocks because the navigator failed to trim the sails or let them fly when necessary.

Graduation is not a final destination. It’s a port. If you got the most out of your education you will see the open seas and be overwhelmed about all the opportunities that await you.

Please don’t think for a moment that your diploma is equipped with a GPS. Your diploma is like a driver’s license. And if you can remember the day you passed your road test you had no problem saying you still had a lot to learn.

Sometime in the next week or so, check your parents’ odometer and see how many miles they’ve journeyed on the Yellow Brick Road and ask them what they’ve learned in all the years they’ve been driving.

It is totally out of character for me to say anything that is not a tad wicked, but I will break character today and say this. You life is what you make of it and if I can offer you a suggestion, your life will be full of meaning if you take full responsibility for your actions, your motives and your decisions. You will never have full control of what happens to you in life, but you can retain control over how you deal with what life throws at you. So don’t spend your life blaming others.

Formal education eventually comes to an end, but learning does last a lifetime…if you choose a lifetime of learning.

Now get out of here before I turn you into a Munchkin.



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I don’t get out much, but this morning I went to a pre-matinee (10:10) showing of Monsters University with my son, Jeremy and his son, Andrew ( three) and two of my granddaughters, Jillian (seven) and Brielle (four). Aside from being a testament to the quality of modern computer animation, it gave me much pause for thought. (I was afraid to discuss the movie with my grandchildren for fear of them thinking me a bit peculiar.)

On the one hand I can reflect on some of the darker periods of my childhood when my bedtime was filled with monsters of the malevolent type. These monsters lived in my closet (one of the reasons why I failed to keep a clean closet), they lurked behind the curtains in my bedroom, and of course a number of them lived under my bed. (They were shrewd monsters under my bed. During the day they masqueraded as dust balls).

These monsters were real despite the malarkey I’d hear from adults who tried to tell me that monsters didn’t exist. And while I could never understand why these monsters wanted to scare the daylights out of me, there was something comforting about them. As much as they could get my heart racing and occasionally cause a wet bed, I found some comfort in their presence. They had a job to do, a job that gave them meaning and purpose.

It was the other kind of monsters that caused me to be terrified because they lived in the real world. Unlike the monsters who only came out at night, these monsters were far more nefarious because they were evil.

The Wicked Witch of the West might have been “monstrous,” but she was no monster. She was evil personified.

As I grew up, it appears the monsters left my bedroom because I stopped believing in them. And that was a sad day when not a single monster woke me with a start. Would that I could say the evil people who lurk in the “real” world had tired of harassing me. As I became an adult I realized that these “evil monsters” roamed the halls of Congress, presided over corporate boards, called themselves ‘boss,’ and sometimes even thought of themselves as teachers.

Watching Monsters University had me longing for days gone by when the monsters that made nightly appearances in my bedroom were the only kind of monsters in my life.

I think I should have been a monster.

Hmmm. I wonder if it’s too late to fill out an application for Monsters University.


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Evil in the form of power was markedly easy to identify in L. Frank Baum’s Oz, but less so in the real world where evil often lurks in the hearts and minds of men and women who appear to be nothing short of wonderful.

Take a lesson from nature and consider the oleander, a flower of great beauty. “Oleander is one of the most poisonous plants in the world and contains numerous toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly to people, especially young children. The toxicity of Oleander is considered extremely high and it has been reported that in some cases only a small amount had lethal or near lethal effects.”

Dorothy was confronted with evil in the person of the Wicked Witch of the West. That her power was great was made evident in the book when the Good Witch of the North told Dorothy that the Wicked Witch was more powerful than she was.  (Not a good testimony for the power of good versus evil, but probably more accurate than what we were raised to believe.)

When it comes to the power of evil versus good in Baum’s book, I sometimes think of it in terms of the individual and how we all have power within and the freedom to choose between the two.  Then I sometimes think that Dorothy is symbolic of the individual living in a world where power is all around us in the hands of others who either choose to use it for good or evil purposes.

But, are we wise enough to recognize the difference or are we lulled into thinking that unless evil is so over the top that we dismiss evil when it looks like a lovely oleander?

In the Oz story Dorothy had no trouble at all distinguishing between good and evil. Not so for us living in the “real world.”

More often than not, evil masquerades as good.  And because we either fail to recognize it or choose to ignore it, evil is allowed to flourish, mostly because we brush aside the evil because we deem it not worthy of concern.

We can point to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and say he is evil incarnate despite the fact that he says “we” have entrusted our fate to the devil…the Prince of Darkness and Evil.  It makes life easier when we have a scorecard and can easily identify evil people who wield power in the name of evil. However, we let evil slip through our fingers on a daily basis every time we either turn our back on wrong doing or when we fail to stand up to the evil that lurks all around us.

My fear is that because we have become so powerless, because we have turned over our power to other people and because we live in fear of being banished from our jobs, we close our eyes and keep our mouths shut.

In a tight economy when jobs are as tough to keep as they are to find, we fall victim to allowing evil to grow wild. On the one and we pride ourselves on the rights and freedoms granted us by the documents we call our democratic gospel.  But in our daily lives we fail to use or cherished freedom and sacrifice our God-given rights because we are afraid of the big, bad wolf.

There is no such thing as freedom of speech in the workplace, and for those of you who believe such a freedom does exist, I suggest you take your head out of your boss’s butt and see life as it really is.

One of my favorite characters of all time is Don Quixote, the knight errant. In his quest he tilted with windmills and fought the impossible fight all in the name of justice and truth.  He saw the world, not the way it was, but the way it could and should be. In the end, he was forced to look into the mirror and see life as it really was and to admit that he was a fool.

It nearly killed him. If it hadn’t been for the resolve that was buried deep inside him, he would have given up and died. Instead he rose to fight again, and again, and again.

When I look back at all the words I have written in a number of different forms, one thing stands out. I might be forced to look into the mirror of reality, but I refuse to succumb to the evil power that currently rules…and ruins our lives.

Dorothy taught me that we have the power of goodness inside and Don Quixote taught me it is better to tilt with windmills than it is to abandon the good fight.

Do not be fooled by the oleanders in your life.

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Once Dorothy was captured by the Wicked Witch of the West things moved along quickly in the movie. Not so in the book. Dorothy had to endure a number of hardships at the hands of the Witch. Nothing physical…because of the mark on her forehead.

But there was the time the Witch struck Toto a blow with an umbrella. Toto, probably the most together character in the story, bit the Witch on her leg. “The Witch did not bleed where she was bitten, for she was so wicked that the blood in her had dried up many years before.”

The bloodless bite did not escape Dorothy. That was clue # 1. Clue # 2 – Dorothy learned the Witch was afraid of the dark. Clue # 3 – Dorothy also learned the Witch was more afraid of water than she was of the dark. (BINGO!)

Let’s cut to the chase. The Witch wanted those damn silver shoes so bad that she ultimately resorted to magic to get them. (She placed an iron bar in the middle of the kitchen floor and then made it invisible.) Dorothy tripped over the iron bar and lost one of her shoes.

Now the score was even: Wicked Witch: One silver shoe. Dorothy: One silver shoe.

The Witch was pleased. Dorothy was pissed beyond belief. An argument ensued. Words and threats flew back and forth.

And then…Dorothy picked up a bucket of water and ‘dashed it over the Witch, wetting her from head to foot.”

The Witch was liquidated. She was stunned because Dorothy claimed she had no idea what the water would do. (Right.)

Too bad. The bucket was thrown and in an instant the Witch melted away like brown sugar ” and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor.”

Dorothy then threw another bucket of water on the mess and then swept it out the door. (Go girl. Get rid of the evidence.)

If the subsequent series of events sounds strange to you, that’s because you only remember the melting in the movie.

And here’s where I say the movie let us all down. In the film, Dorothy ‘accidentally’ splashes water on the Witch when she attempts to put out the flaming Scarecrow (no sexual orientation intended).

In the book, Dorothy knows exactly what she’s doing. Perhaps she didn’t know what the water would do to the Witch, but she did throw the bucket of water on purpose.

And that brings me to the point of this rant. I believe it is far better thing to do something on purpose than by accident…even though the end result might be the same.

How many times have we been held prisoner by someone who wields power over us? How many times have we been forced to suffer at the hands of wicked people?

Obviously I’m not advocating acts of violence. However, I do believe we have the right to liberate ourselves from those who abuse us in any fashion.

Evil deeds should never be tolerated. Evil people should be held accountable for their actions. Evil should be liquified.

But how? I only wish I knew the answer to that question.

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