I want to express our gratitude to Pete Davenport, who stepped forward in our time of need, and served the Virginia SAR very well. We are all fortunate to have had Pete as our president, he is an exceptional leader who has left us well positioned for what lies ahead.
Now, Cat & I thank you for the opportunity to serve you, people who we care about, and an organization that we love.
It would help you to know: I am an evangelical Christian. I believe my experiences, as such, helped to better prepare me to serve you.
Because ahead of us, the SAR and our compatriot societies face trials unlike anything we have faced before, but also significant opportunities. You are hearing and will continue to hear the ancestors we honor, their ideals that we cherish, and even ourselves, described in ways that you do not recognize, much less agree with. These false descriptions will be used to destroy our monuments and symbols, and deny us the ability to speak our beliefs in public.
But, if we confront our attackers head-on, we will fuel further mischaracterizations; we’ll win arguments, but not friends. We must stand strong for what we believe, but not be unnecessarily confrontational.
Consider that these attacks are in fact an opportunity, an opportunity to prove them false by our presence in the public square living by our principals and not by those characterizations. Just as then President Mike Elston encouraged us to do, I also ask you to continue with opportunities like “Nights at the Ball Park” to make your presence known in our communities, being seen as who we really are.
The SAR was founded in the hope that by sharing the dreams that our patriot ancestors shared, a divided country could be brought back together. That is our task again, today.
As I see our path ahead, I rely on the foundation set by compatriots I respect, not only Mike Elston, but Pete Davenport, Pat Kelly, Ed Truslow, Reverdy Wright, Bill Broadus, Phil Williams, Mark Brennan, Bob Bowen, Bill Simpson, Joe Dooley, Larry McKinley, and I could keep going as I have left many out. I hope not to change us but to build on what, thanks to them and others, we already have. I would characterize our goals in the same way as Pete Davenport, let’s Recruit, Reaffirm, Recognize, and Retain.
An excellent way to accomplish all four is to work closely with the DAR and C.A.R. The DAR is a wonderful source for new members, each daughter has a father, and perhaps brothers, sons, or a qualifying husband that are very easily approved for membership and are more apt than others to be active in our society and bring us into closer coordination with the DAR. The C.A.R. Is a wonderful source of committed new members, but also a way to bring badly needed youth into the SAR. And don’t forget each time a DAR daughter, in any way, helps you to recruit a new compatriot, to complete the DAR Finder Form that will give that daughter and her chapter credit from our national organization. As a new requirement, if you submit a new application to the Virginia Registrar without a DAR Finder Form, the transmittal letter with that application must include a statement that the DAR Finder Form was considered.
Beyond recruiting you are encouraged to work with the DAR and other organizations similar to ourselves, stand with them, support their initiatives, and invite them to your events and meetings. You will be recognized and rewarded for making this effort. We must stand together.
We also must grow, and as your chapter grows, if by at least 10%, you will get a part of your dues sent back to your chapter in continuation of the program started by Mike Elston.
We do need youth – and it helps when we recognize the accomplishments of young patriots. The Mark Brennan, Jr Fund is a great way to build our ability to suitably recognize our youth, so we have a goal, again this year, of raising $15,000 for that fund by the end of our Semi-Annual Meeting in September. Every four dollars you contribute to this fund will be matched by one dollar, up to 3,000 matching dollars. So, if our membership contributes $12,000, our goal will be reached. That is less than $6 per member. Each dollar you contribute, including the matching dollars, will count toward your commission or promotion in the First Regiment of the Virginia SAR, and count toward your chapter’s Americanism points on the Virginia Supplement.
Additionally, I ask you to make a separate donation, to the Virginia C.A.R. St John’s Bell Project, separate from the donations I just described, but given to the Virginia SAR in time for your check to be presented to the Virginia C.A.R. at their meeting on March 21st, adding to what your society has already contributed to this worthy project. That contribution will be credited toward your chapter’s state Americanism report, and presented to the C.A.R. in your name. It will go to a great project that we must support.
We also must recruit from within our ranks our new leadership. You are encouraged and will be rewarded with Americanism points for serving as members of state committees. Also. Attendance at state meetings such as this is encouraged and will also be rewarded, and attendance at national meetings and service on national committees is encouraged and is already recognized in the Americanism reports. We need compatriots who are engaged and educated at the state and national levels to better serve our chapters. One great opportunity will be our Semi-Annual meeting in September, at Berry Hill Plantation near South Boston (Sep 18-19). See you there.
Also, as we consider our leadership, I would like to announce the following appointments:
We will continue to reaffirm our faith in our ancestors and their accomplishments by supporting the national events in Virginia and limited selected events identified as Virginia presidential initiatives. Each chapter is expected to have a representative at each national event in Virginia and at each presidential initiative if at all possible. Presidential initiatives will include two grave markings in Northern Virginia combined to count as one initiative (Bluemont, VA, April 4th & Ketoctin, VA, Mary 30th) – attend either one for credit, dedication of the Culpeper Minutemen Monument (October 24th), the dedication of the Col William Preston Monument near Roanoke (May 17th), the Shockoe Hill Cemetery Ceremony at Congress (July 15th), and hopefully an event to be announced in the Tidewater.
One opportunity we should grasp is tied to a significant number, 250. In six years, we will celebrate the 250th Anniversary of our Independence, and today and every day for the next 13 years we are celebrating 250 years from a day in our ancestors’ struggles for that independence. In 26 days, we will mark the 250th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre. Some chapters are already making plans for this significant anniversary and all are encouraged to do the same, with our help. The prevailing program is a gathering on the county court house steps, a brief reading of the history of the event, a roll call of those killed with brief biographies, and at 9 pm, the sounding of nearby church bells for one minute. A script for such an event will be sent to every chapter this evening. When you do such a memorial, please include the local DAR, C.A.R., SR, and OFPA in your program. By doing these ceremonies we reaffirm our faith in our ancestor’s deeds and recruit by being in the public square. Don’t forget to invite the local media.
You are encouraged to recognize modern patriots. The Virginia Society will do its part, also seizing the opportunity of a significant number. As the 100th president of the Virginia Society, I have commissioned a special challenge coin that will be used to recognize 100 Centurions; numbered challenge coins to be presented to 100 special contributors to the Virginia SAR. The first two were to be awarded tonight, but the factories in China that make them have been closed, as you might have seen in the news. Hopefully not for a full year!
A very special task we have taken on is to be the hosts of the 2020 SAR Congress this is a wonderful opportunity to see how our national society functions. You might have wondered if it does function, well it does, and you can see for yourself this July in Richmond. You’ll also meet compatriots from across the country, even the world, and see how they meet the same challenges that you face. We also must, as hosts, bear the burden of making Congress possible, and we need volunteers, lots of volunteers. If you can give us one day in Richmond you will have done a great service. See Jim O’Kelley (or reach him through the 2020 Congress website) and he will sign you up for active participation in the 2020 Congress.
To help us retain members we must give everyone a chance to contribute, to be recognized, and to have fun. Fun things like a night at the ball park help, also working with other similar organizations and other chapters, can be fun.
To help you see what activities the state society is involved in, there is a new calendar on the Virginia Dispatches, our online newsletter. Go to the second tab, “Coming Events” and the first item will be the calendar. The 2020 calendar is rapidly filling in, as you can now see, so plan ahead for your event, check the calendar to avoid conflicts and to take advantage of synergies. And if you are interested in participating in the Color Guard, or asking the Color Guard to support your event, check the color guard tab for a list of Color Guard events with additional relevant information.
Expect an increased effort by the state society to communicate with your chapter. And we need your help to do that. There will be a monthly message from the president, that I ask you to share with your chapter members, and a bi-monthly conference call with the officers and chapter presidents (tentatively scheduled for April 19th) to stimulate the flow of information and cross chapter coordination.
I really want to encourage you to work together, supporting neighboring chapters and other organizations, such as the DAR and C.A.R. Some of you are already doing this well, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter stands out, among others who are already doing this. Let’s keep up and expand this coordination.
Cat & I are looking forward to what we will do with you in the months to come.