By:Pat Smith Department Adjutant
In March of 2016 your organization will celebrate its 98th Birthday. A remarkable feat for any organization but especially remarkable for an organization dedicated to taking care of veterans that fought to preserve our freedoms.
The WWI veterans looked at the organization as one that would cease to exist in their lifetimes. After all they fought the “war to end all wars.” But unfortunately human nature intervened and war broke out again and again and again and yet today.
What if all wars ended today and this would be the last day you could be eligible to join The American Legion. Do the math, our youngest soldier is probably 18 years old. Add 90 to his
age and you would get 108, about the age that the last WWI vet passed away.
So is there a future for The American Legion? Obviously yes! Will there be more wars and conflict that will make members of our military eligible for membership? Obviously yes! So will this organization be around for 98 more years. I think so! Will we be around to see it? I don’t think so!
So the challenge for us today is to provide the leadership for the future. So how do we best do that?
I was once told in my youth, that, “this organization exists in spite of ourselves.” I have found that to be true.
We seem to constantly shoot ourselves in the foot. Someone comes up with a great idea and someone else is there to shoot it down. So that idea disappears. Or maybe someone believes in it
so strongly that he or she is willing to take the hits until the idea is refined to become a working part of the organization. American Legion Baseball comes to mind. A handful of Legionnaires thought this would be a great way to teach our youth about team work, dedication, sportsmanship, integrity and loyalty. Great idea but it did not catch one immediately with the national organization. Today it is one of our premier programs.
The first step is education. Education is the key to providing and improving leadership. As new members join they need to be introduced to the basics of this organization. History is important.
The American Legion Extension Institute is the starting point for anyone to learn about who we are and where we’ve been.
The next step is involvement. Everyone has their “hot button.” Everybody has their life experiences. Everybody has their passions. Everybody can bring something to the table to provide leadership. Our job as current leaders is to scope out that hot button, that life experience, that passion. When a member joins your post find there area of interest. Put them to work immediately. They will learn while doing. The more they do the more they will become involved. Knowledge and involvement will lead to commitment. Once they take that step to commitment they will become our leaders.
This all sounds simple. That final step to commitment may take years. That’s OK as long as there is a path to leadership. The role of a leader is to keep our members engaged and involved. If we can do that this organization will last anther 90 years, guaranteed!