Richard W. Anderson of Connecticut became chairman of the Legion's National Americanism Commission earlier this year. A Coast Guard veteran and longtime Legionnaire, Anderson finds inspiration from the organization's preamble - "to foster a 100 percent Americanism" - for his long-term vision for the commission which he heads. During his tenure as National Americanism Commission chairman, Anderson hopes to bring the Legion's youth-oriented programs to as many deserving young people as possible, and get as many Legionnaires involved in Americanism, all while still honoring the 1.7 million American service men and women who have perished in the line of duty since The American Legion's founding.
Anderson expanded on his thoughts and goals for the Americanism Commission in a recent question-and-answer session as part of the Legion's Americanism month. Each year, February serves as the month for Legionnaires everywhere to promote and foster their posts' and departments' Americanism programs.
Q: What are your visions and long-term goals for the Americanism Commission?
A: "I think, first and foremost, (it) is our responsibility to the preamble in the phrase that states: ‘We are to uphold and foster a 100 percent Americanism.' I believe that our founders stated that in our preamble as a responsibility not only to us as Legionnaires but to our entire citizenship of our great country."
"Some of my goals are to promote the (Junior Law) Cadet program... Promotion in schools to the younger students to me is very important. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the over 1.7 million American servicemembers, men and women, who never came home after the inception of The American Legion. I feel it is our responsibility to be their voice since they are no longer heard from."
Q: What are you personally looking forward to the most about being Americanism Commission chairman?
A: "To promote the purpose of the commission. One of the things that bothers me is that you pick up any newspaper in our country on any given day throughout the year, and if you review the first two or three pages of it, it gives you an answer as to the importance of the Americanism Commission. The fabric of our great country is being torn apart bit by bit. And it's our responsibility to promote that."
Q: What benefits can be reaped from strong youth-oriented programs and why is it important that the Legion focuses on the youth of our country?
A: "Youth is the vehicle of our future. They are going to be the ones recording the history of our country down the road. As we look at the young people today, there are so many possibilities for them. What our society has done with technologies and electronics, it is important to stay with them and maintain and communicate with them on a level that they are accustomed to. It is important that we devote much of our time to the youth of our country and to get into the schools and work with young people and also to preserve the history of The American Legion and what our goals are."