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Life lessons from ‘The Wizard of Oz’

This speech was delivered by Ari Lopez, a graduating senior, during the May 16 WHS commencement ceremony.

WORTHINGTON — Ladies and gentlemen, fellow high school students, faculty, parents and school board members, welcome to the Worthington High School commencement of the Class of 2014. We are a class th at has been given many opportunities. Some of us were involved with band or other music programs, sports like basketball, volleyball, wrestling or track, FCCLA, Knowledge Bowl, FFA — the list goes on and on. We’re lucky that District 518 offers so many chances for students to develop their different talents. And as some of you may know, this past winter I had the fortune, or some could say the misfortune, of playing the Wicked Witch of the West in the WHS musical “The Wizard of Oz.”

Although the Wicked Witch is a villainous figure, she does some teach some important lessons to us about life. So before we leave the high school as a class for the last time to follow our own yellow brick roads, let us all find out what we can learn from that creepy lady who is best known for riding a broomstick.

The first lesson we can take from the Wicked Witch is to remember all that has been given to you, and not take it for granted. Personally, I believe that Dorothy shouldn’t have let Toto chase the Wicked Witch’s cat. Dorothy should have looked after what she had and been grateful she was lucky enough to have a dog. We do not always realize the great opportunity that has been given to us here at Worthington High School. We have caring teachers, a diverse population of students and so many extracurricular activities to take advantage of. Even the ability to have a high school education is something that not all teenagers around the world are lucky enough to experience. Once we go on to our next journey in life, we have these important memories to take with us.

Lesson No. 2 that the Wicked Witch gives us is to not give up. Yes, the witch would have still lived if she didn’t “have to have the ruby slippers,” but she couldn’t easily give up what was rightfully hers. Although the Wicked Witch did die, she fought until the very end. We all can learn from this because we can all be persistent and keep striving for the goals and lives we hope to attain — although I want none of you to be that obsessed with shoes. I do want everyone to pursue what they want in life and to achieve success. If you want to be an astrophysicist, why not? Or maybe a teacher, a nurse, a farmer, a hair stylist, an electrician or a star on Broadway? Find your passion and live it; if you think you can, then you can! Don’t give up on your dreams and hey, if you want to be an astrophysicist, go ahead and shoot for the stars.

Another lesson the witch shares with us deals with problems, and how sometimes there are big problems in life that can be taken care of in a simple way. As the wickedest being in Oz, the terror of poor little Dorothy, and the nightmare of young children everywhere, the witch was ultimately destroyed by ... water. A simple pail of water destroyed the Wicked Witch. This shows us that sometimes problems aren’t as big as we make them and that solutions are easier to come by than we think. Use your imagination and compel your mind to solve whatever problems life might throw at you.

And that brings me to a final lesson from the Wicked Witch: know your own weaknesses and focus on your strengths. Had the witch been thinking more clearly about the fact that water was the one thing that could destroy her, she would have never left a bucket of it sitting in her chambers for Dorothy to use against her. This is the time in our lives when we need to focus on looking ahead and forget about the times or subjects that might have brought us down or held us back.

Now, I am not telling you to go out and buy a broomstick or paint your skin green. (I wouldn’t advise it because it takes half an hour to wash off that kind of makeup.) But I am encouraging you to remember the gifts given to you in life, to take initiative, to be problem solvers and to use your talents to the best of your ability.

And always remember your roots. Long after you’ve forgotten the name of the person sitting to your left, do remember the most important lesson Dorothy discovered in spite of the Wicked Witch: “There’s no place like home.”