To the Discussion Leader

EVERY man or woman who has served in one of the armed forces during World War II will become a veteran upon discharge. Most readers of this pamphlet, therefore, have a personal interest in the pros and cons of veterans’ organizations. Discussion leaders can approach the subject from a personal-interest point of view. The veteran’s place in society concerns every potential veteran and every American community. Whether veterans’ organizations will be a help or a handicap will be a matter for each individual to decide. Sound information is the best basis for such a decision.

Chapter headings of this pamphlet raise five important questions: What makes human beings want to be joiners? Will organization help you become a civilian? How can veterans’ organizations serve the nation? How can veterans’ organizations serve themselves? What will veterans of World War II do about organizing?

Individual readers will do well to ponder these questions in the light of their personal desires and community interests and responsibilities. Discussion leaders can use these questions as a foundation on which to build discussion programs.

What is the leader’s role

Whatever discussion method the leader may follow—forum, panel, symposium, or informal discussion—his main function is to introduce the topic and to stimulate, guide, and summarize the discussion. The following distinct steps will confront the discussion leader as he plans and conducts his meeting.

  1. Preparing the discussion: A successful discussion program is the result of careful planning. The leader should study this pamphlet thoughtfully and outline his program, jotting down questions he believes will stimulate interest and evoke discussion. This will enable him to visualize the entire program and to anticipate reactions to questions. The leader will do well to prepare in advance a short introduction, striving to appeal to interests of his particular discussion group. The leader can write key questions on a blackboard before the meeting or have them prepared on charts. One of the essentials of preparation is adequate publicizing of the meeting. Suitable posters announcing the meeting should be placed in mess halls, on bulletin boards, in reading rooms, and other appropriate places. The leader should have the meeting announced in the installation newspaper and over public address systems.
  2. Introducing the subject: Because new information and new problems related to veterans’ affairs develop daily, the leader should supplement this pamphlet with current newspaper and magazine articles on latest developments in the role of veterans’ organizations. This “news” approach will increase interest in the subject and make the discussion of greatest possible benefit to members of the group. The introduction should be brief, covering main issues and raising a few important questions for discussion.
  3. Getting the group discussion started: Discussion should start on the level of the particular group’s interests. The question stated in the first chapter heading of this pamphlet, “What makes human beings want to be joiners?” might start the discussion ball rolling in the right direction. The leader might get the discussion started effectively by addressing questions to individuals who have definite views on the advantages or disadvantages of veterans’ organizations. The leader should make his questions brief, clear, and provocative.
  4. Guiding the discussion through the main problems: The good leader will be constantly alert to keep the discussion on the important issues of veterans’ organizations. He will use his sense of humor to prevent personality clashes from becoming bitter. He will not allow one or two persistent talkers to dominate the discussion. He will keep the discussion moving by directing attention to new points raised. He will try to maintain a balance of opposing views, without inflicting his own prejudices and pet theories.
  5. Summarizing the discussion: An important function of the discussion leader is to give an objective, interesting summary of the discussion, reserving the last five minutes for this purpose. He should give a fair restatement of main arguments for and against veterans’ organizations. He should give recognition to particularly brilliant or effective discussion by members of the group. He should suggest where individuals can obtain further authentic information about veterans’ organizations. The leader’s attitude throughout the meeting should be that of an objective educator, never that of a propagandist for or against veterans’ organizations.

What type of discussion is most effective?

The local situation will determine in large measure which type of discussion will be most effective. If an authority or, veterans’ organizations can be obtained as a speaker, a forum might be effective. Objective information about veterans’ organizations will serve as valuable background for group discussion. If a forum speaker who is an authority on the subject is not available, a panel, symposium, or informal group discussion would be the best way to handle this subject.

Panel or symposium speakers should be carefully selected and given plenty of time to prepare their talks, using copies of this pamphlet and supplementary materials for them background information.

Since this is a subject of personal interest to every member of a discussion group, the leader might find it effective to devote the entire meeting, to informal discussion. He should encourage members of the group to ask their own questions, and the leader should be prepared with key questions that will keep the discussion moving logically from one main issue to another.

The leader will find detailed information about the advantages and disadvantages of various types of discussion in EM 1, Guide for Discussion Leaders. It is recommended that he study the Guide as part of his preparation, regardless of the type of discussion he plans to use.

Questions for discussion

Leaders undoubtedly will devise some of their own questions and group members will ask questions as the discussion gets under way, but here are additional questions which may prove valuable both to readers of this pamphlet and to discussion leaders:

Do you expect to become a member of a veterans’ organization? If so, what benefits do you expect to get from your membership? If you don’t plan to join, what advantages do you expect from your lack of membership?

What are advantages of World War II veterans joining one of the existing veterans’ organizations? What are disadvantages? What are advantages and disadvantages of forming their own group or groups?

Should veterans’ organizations aim primarily at obtaining benefits for their members, or should they work for the benefit of the entire nation? Should veterans’ organizations take an active role in politics or stay out of politics? Why? What attitude should veterans’ organizations take toward pressure for bonuses, pensions, and other cash benefits to veterans? Do you approve of their attitude’ toward these benefits in the past?

Do you think there should be one single veterans’ organization for all the ex-servicemen of a war, or should they split into separate groups on lines of religion, military rank, national origin, disability status, or areas where they served?

What proportion of the membership of a veterans’ group do you think can actively run the outfit, set its policies, and speak in its behalf? What types of persons are most likely to rise to leadership in such groups? Can you suggest ways of improving veterans’ organizations?