My how time flys. It seems like just yesterday that our WWI founders met in Paris to conceive the great organization known as The American Legion. For over 94 years their vision lives on. In reading minutes of the St Louis Caucus one of the delegates made the comment that this organization would be “a force for good for America for the next 50 years.” How little did he know that we would still be a force for good after 90 years?
How did they do it? How did they go from a vision in the minds of those who fought the war to end all wars? How did they attract over 800,000 veterans in a short 20 months of life willing to pay dues to this new organization? The answers are simple. They had a deep seated belief in what they created would have a lasting impression in the value system of America. The Preamble they put together says it all. “For God and County we associate our self together for the following purposes.” They went on to define what they considered the values that brought them together. That preamble still guides us today. Only one word has changed in 94 years, “our association in the great WAR”, has changed to “our association in the great WARS.” Their vision did not include new wars for America.
What mechanisms did they utilize to build the membership base? Remember they did not have television, Internet, email, texting, Google, Twitter or cell phones. They had telephones. Mable, the switchboard operator, would physically plug them into a circuit to complete their call. It was a party line so you could be interrupted by a neighbor picking up the phone and joining in your call. They had the telegraph. They had newspapers, radio and word of mouth at their disposal.
So let’s create an acronym, T.N.T. Telephone, News, Telegraph. They blasted their way to new heights. They told a neighbor, they told a friend, they told America about their vision. They passed out flyers in grocery stores, barber shops, doctor’s offices and any public place where their comrades would pick them up and join with them in The American Legion. They were able to articulate their vision with the limited tools at their disposal. They had a passion for their cause. They had a passion for freedom. They had a passion for family. They had a passion for good over evil. They loved American and they loved their service to keep America free and safe from aggression. So The American Legion was born out of love and passion.
Fast forward to today. Over 2.4 million veterans still have that passion and love of country. We still join together to make America a wonderful place to raise a family. We still join together to keep America free from aggression, we believe in the vision they communicated to the world.
Today over 22 million veterans exist, almost 5 times the number of veterans available to the WWI veterans to draw from as a pool of potential members. Today we still have T.N.T, it is called the inTerNeT. We can use this tool to blast our way to greater heights. Our goal for the future is an all time high in membership by the 100th anniversary in 2019. That number is 3,100,000 at the national level and 31,707 for Colorado. So why don’t we just round them off and shoot for 3.2 million for national and 32 thousand for Colorado?
In 1919 they utilized all the tools available. But the truth be known, their most valuable tool was word of mouth and personal contact. We can use the Internet to circulate the word of mouth through websites, texting, email but the best method is still face to face. Ask a veteran to join you and share your passion for the organization. You just have to tell your veteran friends of all the good we do for America and for veterans. The sale is easy. If you believe, they will believe. If they trust you as a friend they will join.
Time has flown as I have written this article. So it is time to get to work. As we approach another department convention we need to reaffirm our commitment. We need to pledge anew our belief of service to our veterans and their families. We need to make this organization bigger and stronger. We need you to spread word of mouth by any means possible. Tell the world, The American Legion is still here, serving you, serving America.