The first of the 10 principles of The American Legion is a sacred pledge of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States. It is most appropriate that the first ideas presented in the Preamble be dedicated to the continued defense of our nation by those very persons who have served during wartime. The pledge to uphold and defend America is the first obligation of every Legionnaire.
"To maintain law and order"
Law and order must be maintained if freedom is to be maintained. Liberty is not license. Good government means that all citizens are secure in their lives and property. To this, the American Legion members are pledged.
"To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism"
The term "Americanism" covers all of the things that have made the American nation great and the American people free. It implies qualities of character as well as principles of government. Under this Constitution's principles, the American Legion has worked and is continuing to work, to defeat the attempts of subversive organizations to undermine our system of government. We attempt to build loyalty to and confidence in American ideals, and to develop an American citizenship capable of making America's free form of government a constantly greater success.
"To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations during the Great Wars"
Every member of the American Legion has close personal associations with the sacrifice of war, be it World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada/Lebanon, Panama, Persian Gulf, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Gulf War and the current War on Terrorism. The associations and incidents of these struggles are to be remembered not only for their heroes, their victories for freedom, but also to remind us of the awful implications and inevitable tragedies accompanying war.
"To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation"
The individual is the basis of the American nation. Unlike other ideas of government, the American ideal places the citizen first. The nation belongs to the people, the people are not subjugated by the nation. The government exists for the purpose of serving the individual citizen, not the individual citizen enslaved for the purpose of serving the nation. If this ideal is to survive, there must be a voluntary sense of obligation of the people to the nation and its component parts, the community and state. The American citizen serves his community, state and nation, not in driven servitude, but as a free people guided by their own sense of duty. To inculcate this feeling among all Americans is one of the great purposes of the American Legion.
"To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses"
If America is to remain "the land of the free," the government must always be a government of all the people and for all the people. No classes are recognized in America. No masses of oppressed people shall be allowed to exist. America must be kept the country of opportunity for all, where every citizen's first allegiance is to the nation, not to some social, political party or economic class or group. Dominance must not be gained by any such grouping of Americans. This is another basic pledge of the American Legion.
"To make right the master of might"
The American form of government guarantees equal rights to all citizens. The American Legion, born from a struggle against ruthless might, pledges its strength to a continued struggle to prevent invasion of the rights of any citizen by any force, no matter of what character.
"To promote peace and goodwill on earth"
The members of the American Legion know well the ghastly futility of war. We know that war brings only misery to any nation, which engages in it, to the victor as well as the vanquished. With the lessons of war constantly in mind, we pledge ourselves to promote peace and goodwill among nations. We have worked steadily in the cause of peace defying evil forces which have sought to sow enmity and war throughout the world.
"To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy"
These were the principles that inspired America's great war efforts over the decades and the American Legion stands determined these principles should not be lost to America in times of peace. Following this pledge, the American Legion works to safeguard justice, freedom and democracy against the dangers of indifferent citizenship, radical groups and the attempted undermining of our nation by our enemies. It strives to give understanding and devotion to these principles to our younger generation of Americans so they will endure and defend the future of our great nation.
"To consecrate and sanctify our association by devotion to mutual helpfulness"
This final phrase of the Preamble sets forth the purpose which guides the American Legion in all of its vast rehabilitation and youth work; in everything it has done to lighten the burden of those suffering from the results of wars; and to bring full justice, peace and assistance to veterans and their families who have paid a high price for America's victories. In this work of mercy and relief, the American Legion has made great contributions toward achieving the American Legion's fundamental purpose.
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