"The Wonderful World of Oz," written by L. Frank Baum of Coronado, Calif. and first published in 1900, was popular with children in its time but is no match for the movie, first released in 1939. The movie celebrates its 75th anniversary this weekend.
Both the movie and the film inspired a number of theories about its symbolism and allegory.
Is Baum's story about the gold standard, geo-politics, religion, industrialization and/or populism? Or is it just a good story, as Baum claimed, written solely to bring happiness to children as a "modernized fairy tale"?
In 2003 then Rear Adm. Andrew M. Singer* gave a Navy Birthday speech in Sierra Vista, Arizona. His remarks formed the themes in the movie around Navy and Marine Corps core values.
|Andrew M. Singer, Intelligence Chair, Naval Postgraduate School|
The scarecrow, tin man and lion searched for what they already had: a brain, a heart, the nerve.
Realization of our innate abilities comes with the journey. With that knowledge comes the ability to make good choices. Singer said, "If you think to do the right thing, you'll do the right thing."
In the movie, the diverse individuals form a team and complete their journey thanks to Dorothy's vision and leadership. [Baum was an advocate for women's rights, marrying the daughter of a suffragist. Incidentally, Baum died in 1919, just one year before the 19th Amendment was ratified giving women throughout the United States the right to vote.]
Singer links the key phrase in the movie, "there's no place like home," with the military's mission to protect the country.
At Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Marines learn about core values with a special emphasis on the courage to uphold high standards, make good decisions and seek to continuously self improve.
According to senior drill instructor Sgt. Joshua P. McGee, what's important is having self-discipline to do the right thing. “It’s like the cowardly lion in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ He wanted to be courageous. He wanted to change,” said McGee. “A positive change in our lives takes moral courage.”
McGee said courage is “the moral, mental and physical strength to do what is right; to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure.”
Among the metaphors and lessons waiting to be discovered or repurposed in Oz are many used by the business community, even internationally.
Brandstorm consultant John Lloyd of South Africa writes, in his essay "Leadership Lessons from the Wizard of Oz," about courage in the face of fear:
"Fear immobilizes us. It’s an obstacle to success and makes us followers instead of leaders. It diminishes our initiative, enthusiasm and desire to succeed. At the end of the movie when the Lion is awarded his medal for courage, he still felt the fear but understood that even courageous people feel fear. He thought that he was courageous and consequently he became so. His medal became an outward validation for an inner change."
Lloyd quotes Winston Churchill: "Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend." And, he reminds us of Franklin D. Roosevelt's post-Great Depression statement: ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
"So the three distinct qualities you need to be an effective leader are a never-ending commitment to improving your knowledge, heartfelt compassion for others and the courage to face your every fear," Lloyd writes.
In the same year L. Frank Baum published "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (1900), he produced a pair of picture books illustrated by Harry (Otis) Kennedy – "The Navy Alphabet" and "The Army Alphabet."
For more about Baum and the alphabet books, read Bill Cambell's insightful blog, The Oz Enthusiast.
Of interest in "The Navy Alphabet" is the illustration and verse showing the Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines under O for Ocean.
"The Wizard of Oz" is a bridge from Grimm and Andersen to more modern fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien ("Lord of the Rings") and George R.R. Martin ("Game of Thrones").
One moral of the Oz story is repeated in some of the best of the genre: True power rests within the individual – whether they know it or not – and sometimes those in power rely on ignorance and fear to deceive people. There is always a need for ethical behavior exemplified in the core values of honor, courage and commitment.
So, who has the courage for "emancipation leadership"? (see the next Navy Reads post, "Turn the Ship Around!")
(*Rear Adm. Singer began his career aboard USS Midway (CV 41) in Yokosuka, Japan in 1978, where he became a surface warfare officer. Later he became a naval cryptologist, with assignments on the East Coast and in the Pacific. He completed his career in uniform after serving as Director for Intelligence at U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii. He now serves as Intelligence Chair at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.)