Correspondant's Corner 

 

Houston – We have a problem

Patrick Mobley

My Friends,

While serving as your Correspondant, I welcome the opportunity to receive feedback from you in various forms.  As I travel to different functions, I meet Voyageurs who, with great zeal, share their opinions on the future of La Société and the direction we should go.  I often receive phone calls, letters and emails concerning proposed resolutions for amendments to our constitution, or opinions I should pass along to committees, or I’m informed about a meeting that was held concerning prospective changes to one of our programs.

I look forward to, and appreciate this feedback. I also appreciate the opportunity for the free exchange of ideas and open discussion. Problem solving typically doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it involves untold hours and the effort of many people.

A couple of nights ago I stumbled across one of my favorite movies on TV. It was the 1995 film Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon.  If you haven’t seen it in a while, you should give it another look. There is a scene in the movie where NASA Flight Director Gene Krantz (played masterfully by Ed Harris) draws the Earth and the Moon on a chalk board in a room full of engineers; and presents the problem that all of their calculations predict that they will fall well short of bringing the crew back safely to earth. 

Just then, NASA engineer John Aaron approaches from the back of the room and adjusts everyone’s reality. The situation is actually much worse. He states that “Power Is Everything”. He points out that the spacecraft is using up their limited battery power way too quickly, and they have to cut power consumption down to just 12 amps. If they don’t save the batteries, the crew dies. That’s the ballgame.

Despite the fact that most of the major systems are damaged, and the fact that barely anything on the spacecraft still works, and there is a room full of rocket scientists ready to discuss and debate how to “fix” their specific system; the only thing that really matters is power. You can watch the scene here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tid44iy6Rjs

You guessed it; Membership is power, and Power Is Everything. 

Without Membership we have no revenue to pay our bills, we have no Flags for First Graders, no Nurses Training Scholarships, no Child Welfare, no Youth Sports, no Ritual, no  Committees. Without power – we have nothing.  We die.

All of the time and effort that is spent on the meetings, the phone calls, the emails, the talk about resolutions, the opinions, the suggestions, the plans, the changes. All of the talk. No one is concentrating on the fact that we’ll be dead before we get there. Very few are working on the real problem. 

At every level, MEMBERSHIP has to be Mission PRIORITY ONE. 

Part of Joseph Breen’s genius in founding La Société, was that he cherry picked the top 20% of the American Legion.  We only recruited from the top of the membership pyramid. When we became an independent organization, we never built our own pyramid.  As a result we don’t have a solid base of membership that is content to pay dues, support fund raisers and receive newsletters. And evidently, we have a large contingent of recruiters that is unwilling to invite that 80% membership base to join us. This is why we struggle.  We have a proud tradition of not being “card carriers” – when card carriers is EXACTLY what we need for our survival.  We can’t get them, because no one will recruit them.

I understand and appreciate the fond memories of the bygone days when a candidate had to “prove” their worthiness as a Legionnaire before being invited to join us.  The fact is; those days are over. Gone forever. We’re in survival mode now. Those are nice memories, but no amount of second guessing decisions that were made a decade ago are going to change the fact that we are in critical condition right now.  We need all hands on deck – NOW.  There are over 20 million eligible Veterans out there. Once you get them onboard, you can train them to be the Voyageur you need them to be. But if we hold out – waiting for the perfect candidate to find us – we’ll die. That’s the ballgame. I’ve shown you 30 years of steadily declining membership data that backs it up.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, from the Chef de Chemin de Fer to the newest Voyageur that was Wrecked last night (and everyone in between) has a responsibility to recruit new members.  No one is exempt from this responsibility. Our survival demands it.

AT EVERY LEVEL, MEMBERSHIP HAS TO BE MISSION PRIORITY ONE -- OR WE DIE

For those of you wondering, I do realize that my articles have a common theme, and maybe even a common tone.  I would sincerely like to use this space to communicate about other topics, but duty compels me to continue to bring this issue to your attention. My intention is to keep you, the membership informed about the status of our organization. Each of us holds a stake in it, and each of us must decide for ourselves if we are willing to do what is necessary to save it, or let it die. Your choice will be made evident by the number of Voyageurs that you personally induct each year. I sincerely hope that you choose to honor your years of service, and the legacy that our fathers and grandfathers built.