On Oct. 28, The American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis welcomed its 14th consecutive National Legion College class since 1999. The class of 55 Legionnaires gathered in the National Executive Committee room on the fourth floor of the headquarters building to discuss the program’s curriculum, hear from national staff and to engage in informal introductions with each other.
Legion College Chancellor and Past National Commander Butch Miller from Virginia emphasized that many changes within the Legion happens because of the resolutions brought forth by Legion College students. For example, 2011 Legion College student Bob Brewster from Florida walked through the front and back doors of National Headquarters and saw the four stone pillars that grace both entrances. He knew he had an idea – etching the Legion’s Four Pillars into the stone pillars.
"Thousands and thousands of people that have come in this room (NEC room) and sat down at these desks have heard about the Legion’s Four Pillars, but nobody for some reason walked in the front doors of this building and saw the four pillars out there and said, ‘Let’s name them after the Legion’s Four Pillars,’" Miller said. "Many leaders of The American Legion have sat back and said, ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’ It’s that kind of thinking, that out-of-the-box thinking, that happens in this room during Legion College."
Before the students gathered into small groups to complete their first assignment of developing a five-minute presentation on their assigned Legion College post, PNC Miller shared what he expects to hear from the small groups – ideas on how to increase membership. The Legion passed Resolution 64 during the recent Fall NEC Meetings, which charges the Legion’s Internal Affairs Commission and Membership & Post Activities Committee with devising a five-year membership plan. The Legion College students will share membership ideas Thursday, and it’s a topic many attendees look forward to discussing.
"I came here because the Legion (membership) is on a decline in the state of Connecticut, and we have to figure out how to stop it and rebuild," said Thomas Wood, assistant service officer for the Department of Connecticut. "What I’m hoping to take away from this week is insight and ideas on how to make the organization better, how we can grow the organization and how we can preserve the organization and support the veterans."
Other attendees, such as Dennis Radcliffe from California, are mainly looking to absorb as much knowledge and best practices as they can. "I’m really looking forward to learning, getting new contacts and taking what I can back to my district (19) and applying it," Radcliffe said.
It’s the sharing of ideas and best practices that were Miller’s departing words to the students. "When get back home to your post, take what you learned here and put it to the best use you possibly can," he said.
Today, Legion College students are listening to presentations from division’s within the Legion and will break into small groups to conduct their second assignment, which is to write a resolution on any topic of The American Legion.