The American Legion Family has been committed to serve, since 1919, as a non-profit veteran organization that is guided by rules and principles within our Constitution, by-laws and standing rules. We have volunteered millions of hours in serving those veterans and their families. This commitment starts at the grass roots level and expands all the way to Washington DC. Unfortunately, some people has gotten us mixed up with some sort of social club whose main agenda consists of socializing in a drunken fashion. No where in our constitution, bylaws or standing rules states such thing. God forbid! We, the American Legion Family, is proud to be the largest patriotic organization in the world and we are 100% veteran driven. Anything less is a disgrace to our hard work and dedication. Check out the YouTube video above.
Serving others can sometimes be misinterpreted as seeking recognition for oneself and in some cases that could possibly be true. However, there are some of us, that truly serve from the heart and exemplify our commitment to serve others and not self. Whenever you notice a true servant leader, they are not concerned with what you may think of them; most of the time they are only concerned with completing the assigned task that sits before them. Many times this can become a problem for some, particularly those who have no intentions of trying to help serve but only serve as an instigator, procrastinator, and trouble maker. What's equally sad, is that many of these people don't even realize that they are the problem. No offense, but it's not about you... it's about service!
Some has said that the American Legion Family is a 'DYING ORGANIZATION' and I refuse to believe this myth. Do we need more young people with innovative ideas and talent? Yes we do. We must keep the legacy moving forward. With that being said, there are a plethora of opportunities that is open to those that are eligible to become a member of the American Legion (https://www.legion.org/join), American Legion Auxiliary (https://www.alaforveterans.org/Join/), and the Sons of the American Legion (https://www.legion.org/sons). However, you must be willing to become a servant leader whose agenda is for God and Country, the United States of America.
Remember, it's not about you, it's about service.
When I joined the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), I hit the ground running because there were so many accomplishments that needed to be added to the list of great things already done. Our team (members) was tired, frustrated, but hopeful. One year later, I became the unit president. I was barely elected for a position that I really did not know much about, but I knew deep down in my heart, with the American Legion Family behind me, we could save what was lost and make a great impact on such a wonderful organization. Unfortunately, for me, there was no formal training, no manuals handed down; as a matter of fact, some leaders left and did not support me in this new role that I knew very little about. However, I managed to find a way by using the knowledge that I had acquired over the years while familiarizing myself with the online tools that the ALA provided. Am I perfect? No, however, I am striving for perfection and I am making many mistakes along the way. My goal is to be the best I can be and then pass the baton to other generations that have the qualifications to lead and not just based on tenure. Please note that I think tenure is great, however, this does not mean that one can effectively perform the duties of a leader.
As I listen to the plethora of highlighted political views on FOX, MSNBC, CNN, and a host of other media and social media outlets, concerning the President of the United States (POTUS), Donald Trump; I realize that people can be extremely insensitive of a leader that has no background in the area in which he/she serves. Do I agree with everything POTUS say, do, or tweet? No, however, I do admire his tough armor in handling those who want him to fail, those who are jocking for positions, those who, apparently, do not have his best interest in mind, and those that scrutinize every mistake that he makes (Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc.) as a new unlearned political leader in a new political position, not the old real estate entrepreneur. This recipe of spectators, naysayers, those who critique every jot and tittle, biases, prejudice, nonconstructive criticism and the small percentage of those that are really rooting for POTUS to succeed, are all placed in a pot together and the finished product, that is supposed to be good for all, has been contaminated, thereby causing many to go hungry for the great leadership they were hoping to encounter. We all may not agree but we must all respect.
Going to college in my forties was a big step for me. After quitting school, at the age of sixteen, my only hopes was to get a decent paying job and to take good care of my family. At the age of forty four, I approached the registrar at Southern University at Shreveport (SUSLA), and told her that I wanted to apply for college. She asked me for my official transcript from high school, highlighting my overall GPA and my SAT/ACT scores. WOW! What in the blankety, blank, blank is a blankety, blank, blank "OFFICIAL" transcript, SAT/ACT, and for Pete's sake, an "OVERALL" GPA.? The look on my face was priceless because those acronyms were giving me the blues. For me SAT could have meant " Stop Acting Thuggish" and ACT could have meant "A College Tuition". She began to laugh, but for me it was not so funny. She didn't understand that my life only consisted of making ends meet, however, she didn't realize that "Making ends Meet" was like me and my daddy, we hardly ever met (Hurricane, 2008). She then asked me, "How do you plan on going to college without a high school diploma?" My response was just as shocking as my confession. "I don't know," I responded, "but I do know that I would like to attend." Almost immediately, I went from making 75k annually to making 15k annually working a part time job and as a Federal Student worker in the history department of SUSLA.
To make a long story short, she sent me to the testing center to take an accuplacer test and to my surprise, my score was so high that it warranted me a spot in a calculus class. Boy, I was excited until I realized what calculus really was and meant... For me it was a math from a different world, like 'PLUTOURANEUSSATURNMERCURYJUPITAR' all wrapped in one. In order to learn more about college jargon and way of life, I joined every club on campus so that I could be consistent, persistent and disciplined at what I was there to do, graduate with a degree and to become a great leader added to the fold.
A few years later, I graduated Magna cum Laude and in December 2017, I anticipate graduating with my Masters in Public Administration and will be entered into the PhD program. I have earned National Leadership awards and have helped shape and build several other organizations. I also have been big and bad enough to teach Latin. Funny huh? However, my drive to be my best, at everything, could not be have been achieved without great teams (teachers, leaders, encourage-rs, counselors, etc.). Because of this excitement and dedication, the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters producer, Joh Paulsel, will be interviewing me and the Emanuel L. Young Family on Wednesday, June 14th at 10:00 am. Our team is very excited!
Former Secretary Hillary Clinton was my choice for the White House, however, she is not my president, Donald Trump is. With that being said, we must respect the majority choice of the American people (In spite of how we feel about the tampering). The way we respect POTUS is by realizing that he came to the Whitehouse, without any type of political background, and he is utilizing knowledge from his previous experiences to "Make America Great Again" and the mistakes that he is making or will make in the future, is to be expected. Shaping policy on behalf of millions of citizens requires more than just a conversation. It requires TEAMWORK!This illustration is just a metaphor to help one understand that we may dislike the person in charge but we must respect the office.
When you want change in any organization, be supportive of those that are elected to lead. Talking about all the mistakes they have made will not make things better, it only makes things worse. So, instead of being a problem to the problem be a solution to the problem. My desire is to be a great leader, not for myself, but for those I serve. Whether young or old, please respect the position because we believe in our mission... Whether it's for the POTUS or a leader of the American Legion Family, this is for "God and Country" as we associate ourselves together for the following purposes: To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America... "In the Spirit of Service not Self!" #alaforveterans
Being an Auxiliary Member has allowed me to be a part of something phenomenal. My American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) sisters have embraced me and taught me the mission statement that I vowed to keep to the best of my knowledge. Although I am still considered to be a new member (1 year), all of my life, I have been committed to Service and not Self; however, ALA takes this mission statement to a whole new level. I pray that all new & senior members will focus on our responsibility to this awesome promise we made to our veterans, their families, our community and our youth.
I know that some of you feel as though you are not needed and that can weigh heavy on your responsibility to your commitment. Let me assure you that you are needed, especially to our new members, like myself.
Statistics have proven that people leave organizations within the first year because of the ineffectiveness of leadership. However, I am excited for what is about to happen in 2017... Great things like:
A heart of true love for all mankind
Strong Leadership that embraces constructive criticism & education
New legislation to aid our veterans
Dedication from ALL members
Stronger Youth Participation
Networking more with the Legionnaires and Sons of the American Legion
We are all ALA sisters and we will do exceedingly and more abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20) this year, if we just believe.
There is a song that I use to sing, in an old church down in East Texas, called "Somebody Need to Catch on Fire" and I would just wave my hands, shout and sing it to the top of my lungs. I would sing that song all night in my head and in my dreams. These moments reminded me that genuinely loving something or someone, create an excitement that is unexplainable to those who are just passing through. Can someone teach me the ALA Song? I promise I will sing it with joy and pride. I think I know the first stanza. Hmmmm... Can you help me? Here goes...
I Wake up each Morning There’s so much I must do Well, I think I’ve just started, When another day is through. But no matter how busy, I know who I am I’m a Woman who cares about Life in this land
After we sing our song... we can tell the story...I am always excited to hear a great ALA story from my sisters that have been in this organization over a period of time. Therefore, beautiful ladies of ALA, I admonish you to tell the story to others about your journey. Tell it with excitement. Tell it with twinkles in your eyes (not one eye but both eyes). Tell the story of the Poppies in Flanders Field. Tell the story of how legislation shape policy for the veteran. Tell the story of the many volunteer hours we put in supporting our military and their families. Tell the story of your sickness and how your sisters came to your rescue. Whatever your story is...tell it. Tell the story... Tell the story... You will be amazed at the people that really want to hear it.
Challenge #1: Briefly tell me your story in the comment section below.
Challenge #2: Upload a video of your version of the ALA song
On your mark! Get set! Goooooooooooo... LOL
See you all at Nationals.
I posted this picture just to see how many people would be more focused on the picture rather than the content of this much needed message to a dying organization. This is serious and I did not sign up to such a great organization in order to stand by, as a spectator, and watch it fail without at least trying to take a good look at myself THEN figuring out what I can do different besides allowing distractions to hinder me from a successful Unit, District, Division and/or National Membership gains. If we cannot forgive, love, and put up with some crap sometime then we DO NOT NEED TO BE LEADERS! This is what comes with the role of leadership.
There is nothing worse than a leader with a bad attitude. You cannot expect for eligible people to join our elite organization if we are mean and unlearned. So what they hurt you, get over it and move forward. I have done surveys and this is what eligible and potential individuals are telling me. They are saying that we are nothing but a bunch of rowdy, drunk, old and hateful women that refuse to grow up! Instead of agreeing with them I offer rebuttals, that are facts, to change their minds.
Last Spring 2016 District Convention, Unit 838 was dead last in membership. I took the office of the unit president for the 2016-2017 term and I set our goal at 100% by January 1, 2017. I attended Nationals and came back as a new leader with a new way of handling things. I took a good look at what was wrong with me and my unit. Then we rolled up our sleeves and began to fix it. We started with attitude! Was it easy? Hell No.... There were many woman that was much older than me who did not want me as their president because I only been a member for only one year. They said nasty and ugly things, however, I did not retaliate with hatful words. For those of you who are always talking about being a devout Christian, I chose to love them. I found out that most of them were fearful of what they did not understand. Fortunately, all of them was not like that. There were many that supported me and built our team to be builders. With this team, we are now number one in our District, Division and State at 165% whcih superseded our expectations. Then the ones that was mean to me soon came along as well because I found out that they was only trying to protect what they had worked so hard to keep.
Our veterans made a great sacrifice on behalf of the citizens and non-citizens of the these great United States of America. Our thanks to them, is to become leaders of an organization that gives back to them in the SPIRIT OF SERVICE NOT SELF. We should be ashamed of ourselves when we do not honor our veterans with such service.
Why did we really join?
The Making of a Leader in a Great Organization
by Sylvia Chess January 4, 2017
IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT! READ THIS!
LEADERSHIP ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
It is very rare that I write an opinion about building organizations, however, I felt as though we really need to seriously take a good look at how we lead others. I am asking that all leaders be receptive to this article. If you become upset after reading this, like Budweiser "This Buds for You" slogan, this article is for you.
Many great organizations are losing existing members by the thousands, making it difficult to retain the ones that are left to be overtaxed with all the duties that great organizations require to stay alive. Well, were you really called to be a leader? Did you just take the position because no one else wanted it? Did you become frustrated once you were sworn in and found out it was not just all fame and glory? Do you believe in the mission of your organization? If so, are you receptive to continuous education that will help you become a better leader? Are you a gossiper, backstabber, adulterer, fornicator, loud mouth, too soft, procrastinator, so forth and so on? Are you intimidated or ignore great talent within your organization? Does it bother you to accept young talent and ideas? Are you excited? Do you smile? Are you branding your organization with the proper attire that represent your organization? Are you prejudiced? Are you directing your followers to do one thing and you are doing the opposite? Are you a liar? Are you easily offended? Are you overworked and stressed? If you said yes to any of these questions, then you need to do a critical evaluation of yourself and be receptive to change.
Believe it or not, these are some of the reasons why people leave great organizations. Unfortunately, many of them do not leave quietly. They soon drag your name, and the organization name, into negative advertisement for all those they come in contact with; especially those who are interested in becoming a member.
"Make your Organization Great Again" then “America can be Great Again”
A great leader must be able to recognize that "BAD APPLE" within the organization and address it privately first and try to resolve the issue. However, it is very difficult to correct someone when the leader is just as rude and inconsiderate of others. No one, in their right mind, want to experience that kind of treatment, especially when they are spending their monies and volunteering their time. Believe it or not, people like to feel and believe that their ideas and contributions are appreciated.
Leaders are first partakers of being a good example to those they serve, especially if there are youth involved. REMEMBER, our youth are watching us. Therefore, if you are not sure what is considered to be "GOOD MORALS" then you, yes you, need to find out! You cannot expect people to follow you when you are lost and refuse to evaluate the leadership style you are accustomed to. Too many leaders just carry the name of leader and not the heart of a leader. The HEART of a leader cares about who they serve. So, if you care then you will be receptive to new ideas and change. There are some things that mama use to do that still works today, however, there are some things that need to be upgraded. If your members are that bad, then LOVE the Hell out of them! It worked for me and I know it can work for you.
Those who are more seasoned need to remember that your voice, time and talent is needed. You must remember to pass the baton to our younger generation. GIVE THEM A CHANCE to be a part of a GREAT OPPORTUNITY! KNOCK, KNOCK! Open the door and let them in. Why wouldn't you? Someone opened the door for you.
Fortunately, there are many great leaders among us and we should be quick to gravitate to those persons. Find out what works and what has been tested to be failed attempts. This will allow us to grow beyond measure, especially in the technology era that we are living in today. When I plant flowers in my garden, I must provide the necessary care for them in order for them to grow. With that being said, we should find mentors to help us be better regardless of our age.
Sadly, many leaders become intimidated when individuals are more knowledgeable or more talented than they are. This is something you should not fear but embrace. You will be surprised how much this will grow your organization. Remember, you are training others to be great leaders as well. So, when you recognize that you have a potential candidate for any position, even yours, then you should be guilty of developing that individual not running them away. They may even become better or greater than you will ever be. Don't be intimidated or jealous but embrace it.
"Well Sylvia (In my Conway Twitty voice), I'm sick, broke, busted, disgusted, my spouse is gone, my children are hungry, my illness has taken a turn for the worse, my cat ate the dog, I don't know nothing about computers, social media, iPhones, earphones..." This is a great recipe for all the reasons why you should focus on building your leadership skills so you can build a leadership team of professionals... then you will grow. It starts at the top and works downward. If YOU are not receptive to change or being better, neither will your organization.
Daily, I try to live by the Motto of my Alma Mater, Paul Quinn College the Quinnite Nation:
1. Live a LIFE that MATTERS
2. Love something GREATER than YOURSELF
3. Leave places BETTER than you found them
4. Lead from WHEREVER you are
In addition to that, I try to keep the promise that I made with the American Legion Family, daily.
"IN THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE NOT SELF"
Remember, we are not perfect but we should all strive to be perfect. This is not meant to offend anyone. However, it is meant to grow us up to become better leaders to those we serve. We should be building on the legacy that other leaders left behind. My grandmother use to say, "If the shoe fits, then wear it and wear it well. It will only make you better." Please do not become a leader if you are not willing to give your all to ensure that it does not become a dying organization. We made a promise and we must keep that promise or suffer losing our organization.
Although I am the author of this piece of literature, it has helped me and I hope it helps you as well. I am the first partaker of truth. In the end, we are going to get tired. There are times we will become very frustrated. There are times we may want to quit, come back and quit again. Then there are times you just need a friend. Let me be your friend. Let’s be better together.
LEADERS, IT START WITH YOU! Enough said…
Author: Sylvia Chess
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow service members and veterans.