The original cover and signature page of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, along with the typed and hand-edited speech given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after signing it, will be showcased at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans beginning June 20 as part of an American Legion centennial salute to the GI Bill.
The bill, drafted and pushed to passage by The American Legion in 1943 and 1944, transformed the United States, building the middle class and democratizing higher education. The exhibit, titled “The Greatest Legislation,” features illustrated panels and touchscreen videos that tell the dramatic story of how The American Legion drafted the measure and overcame numerous challenges to get it to the president’s desk June 22, 1944. It also traces the effects of the bill during the 20th century and its evolution to best serve veterans of the post 9/11 era.
A free reception at the museum is planned at 5 p.m. June 20, followed by a moderated panel discussion led by American Legion 100th Anniversary Honorary Committee Chairman Ted Roosevelt IV. Scheduled panelists include former U.S. Sen. James Webb, who introduced and championed the Post 9/11 GI Bill of 2009; VA Deputy Under Secretary for Employment Opportunity Curt Coy; Student Veterans of America CEO and President Jared Lyon; and American Legion Assistant Director of Veterans Employment and Education John Kamin.
The panel discussion will include remarks from World War II Museum President Dr. Nick Mueller and American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones. The event will include a question-and-answer session where audience members will be invited to share the ways in which the GI Bill has influenced their lives and to discuss the future of the benefit for today’s veterans.
In addition to the cover and signature pages of the original act, on loan from the National Archives, and the speech, on loan from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, is a pen used by President Roosevelt to sign the bill into law, on loan from The American Legion National Headquarters.
Visitors planning to attend the June 20 event are asked to call ahead at (877) 813-3329 extension 412.