A recent New York Times article was titled, “An Aging American Legion Fights for Relevancy”. The article examined a local American Legion Post in a small town near Chicago. The post has a declining aging membership and the article focused on that as the basis for our relevancy in our communities.
Since 1919 The American Legion has always been relevant. The organization went from 0 members on March 14, 1919 to over 800,000 members 18 months later. Their very existence, as veterans that fought the war to end all wars, made a huge impact on their communities. Nothing has changed. Today, with over 2.4 million members we are still making that impact. Just ask our younger veterans who are using the new version of the original GI bill to continue their education. The American Legion was relevant when the GI bill was sponsored by The American Legion in 1944.
So the issue is how do we approach the future? Again nothing has changed. Our founders had a vision for the future that included veterans working for veterans. Their vision included a better America by paying attention to our youth, their education and their well being. Their vision included a strong military so that we would never again face the horrors of war. Their vision included love of country. They were proud of their service and they were not afraid to wave the flag and display their patriotism on their sleeves. Nothing has changed. We are still relevant, because we still share their vision today.
The NY Times article seemed to suggest that membership was the only benchmark to determine relevancy. We know that is not the case. But we also know that membership is our lifeblood. We must continue to recruit and retain new members. Membership is a moving target. We must continue to focus on the target until we hit the bull’s eye.
Since 1950 the annual census has reflected a veteran population of at least 20 million veterans. Today that number is about 22.5 million veterans. This is our bull’s eye. Our market for membership is essentially unlimited. We know realistically that we will never reach that 22.5 million mark in membership but we can, and must, continue to take aim at those numbers.
How we do that becomes the challenge. In 1919 the forms of communication were limited. No Internet, no email, no cell phone, no texting, no Twitter and no Facebook existed, but our founders put this organization together using just word of mouth, and a belief that what they were doing was right.
We have all of those modern forms of communication now. So is our job not just that much easier? Our vision for the future is 3 million members nationwide by the 100th anniversary on March 15, 2019. Our vision for the future for Colorado is 35,000 members by March 15, 2019. Our vision for the future is to continue doing what we are doing. It has been successful and the formula is tried and true. Won’t you help us realize our vision? Just ask a veteran to join by any means you desire. We will always be relevant!!!