As an ALA Hoosier Girls State alumna, I am delighted to be here. That experience is one of the main reasons I am in my position with the ALA. The other reason is the ALA’s mission to help our veterans, military and their families.
My dad served in WWII, and my son served in the War on Terror/Operation Iraqi Freedom. We are here in this place – free to present this program – because our veterans have put their lives on the line to protect our free nation. That someone reveres our freedom enough to fight for it is really awe-inspiring. It’s our American spirit.
Our American Legion Auxiliary Girls State programs honor our veterans’ service by teaching the ideals our military have defended since WWI. This year, some 16,000 high school girls across the country attended ALA Girls States. We’re close to ¾ million girls who have participated in ALA Girls State since we first began.
The first two ALA Girls States took place in 1939 in Kansas (ALA Sunflower Girls State) and Nebraska (ALA Cornhusker Girls State), so 2013 marked the 74rd year for those inaugural programs. Their diamond jubilees are coming up in those two states next year!
The first ALA Girls Nation took place in 1947, so this year, 2013, marks the 67th annual American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation session. ALA Girls State and Legion Boys States are two of the most coveted and selective government education programs in the country – and you are all now ALA Girls State alumnae. You’ll soon be ALA Girls Nation alumnae.
On behalf of all these ALA Girls Nation volunteers and all your ALA Girls State volunteers, I hope you always treasure being a program alumna of the American Legion Auxiliary.
As an alumna, you’re in some pretty good company. Many students who attend our programs go on to be leaders in their communities, states and the nation. Some of our nationally notable alums include former Today Show host and renowned broadcaster Jane Pauley, former Texas Governor Ann Richards, and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano (President Obama’s former National Homeland Security Secretary).
And after the horrific attacks on 9/11, which of course included the deadly attack on the Pentagon and the one thwarted in Pennsylvania that was intended for our nation’s capitol, one of the first F-16 fighter pilots called on to provide presidential protection was an ALA Iowa Girls State alumna! She is also a former White House fellow and received the Congressional Gold Award. Awesome.
Your generation is often referred to as the “security generation” – your schooled learning – from grades K-12 – has taken place in the post 9/11 era of heightened security. You have a heightened sense of national security – comparable only to those who were in school during WWII and during the Cold War afterwards, when schools and communities had bomb shelters and air raid drills.
In more ways than we might imagine, your generation and my generation (the Baby boomers) are kindred spirits. We both really get it – we understand that freedom is not free.
Your being selected as an ALA Girls Nation Senator makes each of you truly privileged, as the saying goes: 1 in a million. Hmmm, let’s look at that expression… 1 in a million.
Currently, there are more than 76 million children in the US, with more than 25 million children between the ages of 12 and 18 in the US. If you crunch the numbers for the average number of ALA Girls State program participants in each state, every Girls State participant is truly “one in a million” among today’s youth! And each of you, as a teenager in the USA and an ALA Girls Nation Senator is – literally – one in 20 million among your fellow teenage countrymen!
This marquee program has passionate and dedicated volunteers and staff who work year-round to prepare and present this phenomenal immersive learning experience. Even with their collective thousands of volunteers hours, the ALA invests $348,000 – that’s more than 1/3 of a million dollars – for you 98 girls to be part of this immersive learning educational program.
So, you’re one in 20 million, and the ALA invests $3,551 in each of you as an ALA Girls Nation senator. Feel special?
How many of you have scholarships yet? How many expect to receive a scholarship? The value of this program is more than the annual amount of most individual scholarships awarded. The ALA has invested over $3500 for each one of you to be here. Note, I used the word “invested.”
What is an investment? Any investment is made to generate a greater return than what was originally put in. It’s called “payback,” or “Return on Investment.” The ALA, like any responsible investor, has an expectation for our investment in you. We want your payback to exceed our investment in you. We want your payback to be impactful: contributing to a better country through understanding and respect for the principles of democracy that guide and safeguard our republic.
We want you to remember who made this investment in you – the American Legion Auxiliary. Yes, we’re nice ladies, American Legion Auxiliary members who want you to have a wonderful experience this week. But we’re also prudent investors who want you to remember that we made this investment in you with significant expectations.
We expect you to always appreciate and respect our American heritage of self-reliance and achievement. We want you to live a life that respects our Constitution, our veterans who have continued to defend and die protecting our freedom as a nation. We want you to live patriotically, contribute to the good of society, and never forget the opportunities this ALA experiential learning program will provide you throughout your adult life. Our willingness to be here and learn is indicative of our commitment to deliver excellent program content in a legally, morally, and physically sound environment.
We are excited and hope each of you has a great experience that is life-shaping.
As the average lifespan for Americans continues to increase, each of you can reasonably expect to live to be 100. Think of it…100! So, we hope each of you strives to pay back our investment in you in a really big way for the rest of your lives. Live each year as the “1 in 20 million” that you are. Our nation will be preserved and our freedom protected because of the outstanding leaders you will become. Learn from this experience, and MAKE A DIFFERENCE!