The St. Louis Caucus, May 1919 adopted the name “The American Legion” and set out to build the framework for the organization. The Committee on Constitution presented a simplified temporary constitution that incorporated the Paris draft. This constitution established the organization’s membership criteria and the organization of posts, departments and national levels. A subcommittee consisting of John C. Greenaway of Arizona, George N. Davis of Delaware and Chairman Hamilton Fish of New York prepared the preamble to this constitution. This preamble sums up all the great ideals of the American Legion. We recite it at the beginning of most meetings but unfortunately seldom reflect on its meaning.
Listen while I (we) consider the Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion.
FOR GOD AND COUNTRY: We acknowledge our allegiance to our God and to our democratic form of government. We know we are blessed to live in the United States of America where individual freedom and opportunity is unparalleled in the world. This freedom and opportunity springs from God and our great American Heritage.
WE ASSOCIATE OURSELVES TOGETHER: We choose to join together because together we can better accomplish our goals and aims.
FOR THE FOLLOWING PURPOSES: Next is listed the 10 purposes of the American Legion.
TO UPHOLD AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Our freedom is guaranteed by this miraculous document and the government it establishes. It is right to love it, to teach it and to defend it.
TO MAINTAIN LAW AND ORDER: Society can exist and culture can flourish only under the structure of fair and impartially administered laws obeyed by the people.
TO FOSTER AND PERPETUATE A 100% AMERICANISM: The Bolshevik revolution only a few years before this preamble was written challenged the great American ideals as the best way of life. The twentieth Century demonstrated the superiority of our great American way of life.
TO PRESERVE THE MEMORIES AND THE INCIDENTS OF OUR ASSOCIATIONS IN THE GREAT WARS: Only veterans can appreciate what other warriors have experienced. It is right to associate with and remember our fellow veterans.
TO INCULCATE A SENSE OF INDIVIDUAL OBLIGATION TO THE COMMUNITY, STATE AND NATION: We must always remember that democracy works only when we all participate. Those who serve in time of war are just as obligated by the duties of citizenship to be involved in their government in time of peace.
TO COMBAT THE AUTOCRACY OF BOTH THE CLASSES AND THE MASSES: History has shown and continues to show groups enslaving and dominating others; whether it be one class, one race or one creed against another, the majority dominating the minority or one absolute ruler dominating all. Neither is right and should be prevented.
TO MAKE RIGHT THE MASTER OF MIGHT: Wars are generally fought because the greedy want power, riches or territory. Military might should be used to protect what is right, not for greed.
TO PROMOTE PEACE AND GOODWILL ON EARTH: The World War I veterans really believed they had fought “the war to end all wars” and the World War would usher in a world peace. We have learned that peace is only maintained when we diligently protect that peace through strength.
TO SAFEGUARD AND TRANSMIT TO POSTERITY THE PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE, FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY: The cornerstones of the American way of life need to be taught and protected if future generations are to enjoy the freedom and greatness we know today as Americans.
(TO PARTICIPATE IN AND TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE AIMS AND PURPOSES OF THE AMERICAN LEGION: ) The preamble to the Constitution of the American Legion Auxiliary is the same as the preamble of the American Legion except this phrase is added at this point. In the biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve, God took a rib from Adam to create Eve. It symbolizes that neither is complete without the other. So it is with the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary, together we work to fulfill the ideals set forth in this preamble.
TO CONSECRATE AND SANCTIFY OUR COMRADESHIP BY OUR DEVOTION TO MUTUAL HELPFULNESS: We are fellow veterans. But that means nothing if we fail to help those still suffering mental and physical disabilities, our disabled veterans, or if we fail to help the widows and orphans of our departed comrades. Flowers wither, words fade away, but our helpful deeds show what is written on our hearts.
In the 100 years since this preamble was written only one word has changed. “War” was changed to “Wars” to include other generations of veterans into The American Legion family.
Past National Commander Perry Brown of Texas, was known in his later years to use the phrase “My American Legion”. Yes, it was his American Legion, but it is also yours and mine when we take to heart and put into action the great ideals on which “our” American Legion was founded, “For God and Country”.