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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019

No Wizardry Involved

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We have the power to improve our lives

As a child, I always looked forward to watching the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” It was broadcast only once a year (back then), or so it seemed. I used to watch it with my grandmother every year.

Now, I watch it with my children, and I’ve discovered there are many life lessons to be learned from “The Wizard of Oz” – lessons I took for granted for too many years.

For example, don’t stand next to windows during tornadoes. Be careful what you wish for. Be nice to the little people as they may have powerful friends. When something knocks the “stuffings” out of you, just stuff it back in and move on. If life tosses you lemons, make lemonade. If life tosses you apples, just eat them.

Then there’s the lesson that the grass is not always greener on the other side (or even over the rainbow). When you go looking for your heart’s desire, don’t look further than your own front porch. Or when you think you are the most

helpless, you still have an amazing ability to help yourself. And as our most recent elections proved, with candidate after candidate willing to roll up their sleeves and serve, “there’s no place like home.”

Oh, I know, there was lots of handwringing, anxiety and foretelling of the doom and gloom that awaited our great city – if the voters happened to choose the wrong candidate, from the mayor’s office to City Council, and everywhere in between – some of which has merit. But regardless of whether your candidate won or not, here’s another important lesson: There’s no wizard in Oz to save us.

That may not sound like a good way to begin a brand new year, but stick with me for a moment.

You see, what I mean is no “magical” leader will solve all of the daunting challenges to our fair city. The Tin Man needed a heart, the Lion needed courage, and similarly, our community needs a “miracle” of its own. At the top of the list are the essentials: Curbing our declining population (and simultaneously shrinking tax base); financing almost one billion dollars in underfunded pension plans, water, sewer and road repair projects; protecting our families from rising crime. Other priorities include making our streets cleaner, city government more transparent, and economic development beyond simply raising taxes, or droning on and on with empty promises of “good paying” jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Serving in an elected office, such as the mayor of Shreveport or on the city council, is an important responsibility. But investing too much dependence into any single individual (like the wizard in Oz) is half-baked to start with because it oversimplifies the tasks at hand and provides an “out” to stop paying attention, long after the victory speeches have ended and the adrenaline of the campaign has subsided. After all, Oz has it under control, right?

Not so much. Remember, Oz was a mere mortal himself, with his own problems, all while making the illusion that he had all the answers. But like Oz, our city government cannot “fix” all things for us. It cannot make us all feel content, respected or accepted. In fact, most times government just needs to get out of our way because each of us is in the best position to get whatever we wish for, just like Dorothy with her ruby red slippers.

We may have always had the power within ourselves to improve our lives, but the responsibility to do so is ours alone, and in the context of improving our community, this means remaining engaged in the political process, long after the fanfare has ended.

It means writing a letter to the editor of your newspaper or calling your elected officials and letting them know what they’re doing right (and what you think they could do better). It means

paying attention to the mundane of city government but not expecting some wizard at the end of the “yellow brick road” to fix everything for us. Isn’t that the kind of thinking that, little by little, got us here in the first place?

And if you remember, as the story ends, Dorothy asks Glinda, the Good Witch, to help her once more to get back home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. It’s then that Glinda shares the most valuable advice of all: “You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.”

And therein lies possibly the most valuable lesson for any city or family or organization: You are more powerful than you know.

You see, Dorothy always had the power within herself to achieve her wish. Just like Scarecrow, to whom Oz presented a diploma (although he already had just as many brains as those who graduated from the most prestigious universities). Or Tin Man, who was already as sentimental as any man could be. Or Lion, who was already courageous as anyone (but just didn’t know it yet).

So, in this new year, may we all be reminded that we have the power within ourselves, endowed by our Creator, to achieve so very much of whatever we are wishing for and that “somewhere over the rainbow” is often right in our own backyard.

Happy New Year!

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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