On the heels of The American Legion calling for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger emphasized why the Legion's strong voice is heard on Capitol Hill — its membership.
"We captured the media's interest this week, not just because of what we are saying and the righteousness of our cause. We captured it because of our size," said Dellinger to National Executive Committee members during Spring Meetings on May 7 in Indianapolis. "Without membership, we wouldn't have the resources to organize town hall meetings for people to discuss issues that they may be having with the VA, or form committees to examine the best treatments for traumatic brain injuries or post traumatic stress. Without our membership base, there wouldn't be an American Legion and America would be much worse off."
The American Legion is aiming for an all-time membership high by its centennial in 2019 and has tasked each department with forming a strategic membership plan to achieve that goal. Dellinger stressed to the NECmen that to achieve a successful culture of growth, it's going to take every Legionnaire at all levels to "do everything we can to renew those who haven't renewed, bring back those who have lapsed, and ask those who have never been a member to join today."
To get them started on boosting membership, Dellinger gave the NECmen a homework assignment — everyone received four non-renewed members from their respective department to contact by tomorrow morning before the start of Day 2 of NEC Spring Meetings. The homework assignment extends beyond tomorrow as Dellinger also tasked the NECmen with calling one non-renewal every week for the 2013-2014 membership year.
"We can do this," Dellinger said. "If we don't do this ourselves, we can't expect anyone else (at the post, district or department level) to do it. Membership is the responsibility of everybody."
The American Legion's current membership enrollment window of 24 years is the longest in the organization's 95-year history. But just after World War II, the Legion had about one million more members than it currently has.
"The American Legion is strong because we have more than 2.3 million members," Dellinger said. "However, 2.3 million is not as strong as 2.5 million. And 2.5 million is not as strong as 3 million. Please, make the calls and recruit every eligible veteran that you can. Together, we can meet our 2019 membership goal and become larger and stronger than ever before."