By: C. Pat Smith, Department Adjutant
Your state Oratorical Committee just completed the state finals contest for 5 outstanding and impressive students who spoke on the U S Constitution. These 5 students came from throughout the state to Longmont Colorado to compete for $6,000 in scholarship money at the department level and the chance to represent Colorado at the national finals and compete for over $18,000 in scholarship monies. These students are the best and the brightest and will be the guiding hand as American moves forward in the coming years. Their knowledge and understanding of the constitution and its impact on our daily lives brings renewed hope to all of us who have worn the uniform to protect America’s freedom. These youngsters “get it” and thanks to the American Legion they have the opportunity to showcase their skills and tell all of America that they look forward to the challenges of the future.
Coming up in June your American Legion will conduct the 62nd annual Boys State program at the campus of CSU in Pueblo. It is anticipated that over 200 high school juniors will attend this week long event to learn how their government works in a hands on exercise designed to teach these young men the worth and values embedded in our system of government. If past history is any indication these 200 young men will leave the campus at the end of the week with a real sense and understanding of the need to keep this political system intact in the future and, in fact, use their skills and talents to improve the quality of life for all citizens while preserving the freedoms we enjoy today. Concurrently while the Boys State program is running the American Legion Auxiliary is running a similar program in Gunnison at the campus of Western State. They also anticipate over 200 young ladies to participate.
Your American Legion Baseball committee has begun the planning process to host over 2,000 young men in the annual ritual known as “The Boys of Summer.” What an outstanding program to teach young men team work, sportsmanship, and discipline. This year the program anticipates over 110 baseball teams in the A, B, C and newly formed D programs. Young men from the ages of 13 to 19 will compete this year on the baseball fields all over Colorado. Hundreds of parents, teachers, friends and legionnaires will be witness to the maturation of these young men as they learn the important values that cement this great country together. Without the support of our local American Legion posts this great program could not exist. What better way to spend a few hours this summer witnessing the American Legion in action as we prepare our youth for the future. Be sure to get involved.
At our recently concluded Mid-Year conference The American Legion sponsored our third annual U S Army recruiting command’s induction ceremony. This year 136 young men and women were inducted in the Army in the future soldiers program. These young men and women came from several surrounding states to take the oath of enlistment as they prepare to serve our country as the front line of defense for our values and our freedoms. In the three years we have sponsored this program over 350 new soldiers have been exposed to the American Legion and what we stand for. You can bet they will pass along our message as they wear their uniforms proudly during their term of service. Once again the American Legion is looking to the future with this program.
The American Legion is deeply involved in the Boy Scout program. Currently we are number two in the nation in sponsoring scout troops. The history of the connection to the scout program with the American Legion goes back to our founding days. Again this program teaches our strong American values of citizenship, discipline and team work.
Let’s don’t forget about the Jr. Shooting Program. While this program is relatively new, it is one of our growing programs. Mid-August every year 30 young men and women converge on Colorado Springs at the Olympic Center to “shoot off” for the top honors in the nation as a possible future Olympian in the shooting sports program. Literally thousands of boys and girls compete in this program nationwide before the final 30 are chosen. You want to talk about discipline? This program requires discipline to the nth degree. These kids really “get it.”
And did I mention, every one of these fine programs have scholarship opportunities attached. What a better way to ensure the future by teaching strong American values while offering the opportunity to further their education.
Our WWI veterans realized the importance of teaching our youth about Americanism and Patriotism. That is why they founded the organization on four pillars, two of which are educating our youth and teaching Americanism. They were right on target. Connecting the organization to the future, and insure a strong America.
So, in your recruiting efforts when a veteran asks why they should join The American Legion, or when you ask a member to renew and they ask why, just remember to tell them, we are connected to the future with our youth programs. If they can’t see the value in that, then there is no hope, move on to the next prospect, for we are truly “Connected to the Future.”