The 2023 National American Legion College class spent the past five days at National Headquarters in Indianapolis writing, presenting and debating resolutions; developing institutional knowledge through national staff presentations; building effective leadership skills; and working together as a team. Their hard work ended Friday morning in the National Executive Committee Room at National Headquarters as the 53 students graduated.
“This has been a class that can stand alongside of any class that we’ve had in the history of this program,” said David Rehbein, past national commander and National American Legion College chancellor, as graduation got underway. “But that’s because of you. Thank you for being the students to come here committed to make this what it is.”
The students represented were nominated by their respective departments to attend National Legion College. Department of Georgia 1st District Commander Casey Nash wanted to attend NALC “to grow in the Department of Georgia, grow in The American Legion, to be a better Legionnaire and to share my experience and knowledge with them of what I’ve learned. I have learned how to better be a team member in working with diverse people, and I’ve learned how to better work with myself and understand personalities a lot better. National American Legion College has been about building that teamwork, that camaraderie and leadership skills to instill the sense of pride in The American Legion.”
The training is what brought Julie Flynn, a Paid Up For Life member of Post 86 in Gray, Maine, to NALC. “I wanted to come because my biggest interest is in training and facilitating for our state college,” she said. “I can’t wait to take back what I’ve learned and make our Legion College even better.” Besides the ideas that have been shared among the students, Flynn said she has enjoyed being paired into five districts “where we’re really together because we have a variety of different posts and different positions. And just the interaction with that, I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
Every student has their why to attend National American Legion College. Seeing the vision of The American Legion at the national level with Be the One has been significant for Danny Powell with the Department of Georgia. “The National American Legion College has been a lesson in what can become when coupled with forethought, planning and an implementation of a well thought-out vision,” he said. “(And) hearing National Commander Seehafer reiterate Be the One and really bring that vision is something that only can be inspired from the top down.”
Prior to the graduates walking across the stage to receive their NALC diploma and pin, Seehafer said the why to attend NALC is because “we’re here to have a purpose and to be relevant. I think that’s a key word. Relevance.”
Seehafer then held up his left pointer finger to signify one. “That’s the number I want everyone to focus on. I want you to understand the importance of that number, Be the One. That’s why I say this family is certainly about changing lives and saving lives. Don’t ever forget that and use that phrase when someone comes up to you and asks, ‘What’s The American Legion?’ Say we are family that changes lives and saves lives.”
He then asked the students if they knew about servant leadership and the three C’s under it – competence, character and commitment. “This is the key that will change the face of this organization. I truly believe that,” he said.
Seehafer said competency is knowing the basics and complexity of the organization at all levels and knowing what The American Legion does, while character is when knowing the time to speak, forgive and correct. And commitment is what he wanted the students to take from him.
“I look at veterans, I look at my good Lord, go hand in hand to me. I’m committed. And I am committed to this organization, to this family,” he said. “It’s nice to get a pin and everything, but are you committed? You’re going to walk out those doors, not everybody is going to be tapping you on the back (in congratulations of graduating from NALC), are you committed? Would you do anything and everything for this organization? Hearing both sides of the story, reaching out, correcting, but doing it in a servant leadership way. Putting others first, and yourself last. Three Cs. I believe you would want to champion those three Cs and servant leadership. You’re’ the first class to walk through those doors into a world now and plant that seed. You willing to do that?”
A resounding yes filled the room.