In this issue our time machine lands in December of 1987, when the great Cathy Schulze penned this essay explaining the unique role a national Esperanto organization can play in promoting the language. While many things have changed since 1987, Cathy’s arguments remain relevant. — Ed.
“Why should I join ELNA?” is a frequent question. I answer it thusly.
First, What is ELNA? Quite simply, ELNA is all of its members working together. Most of us were introduced to the International Language because of some activity of association members — a letter to the editor, article, TV, radio, or newspaper interview, or talk to a service club.
If we learned Esperanto on our own, we were probably advised on learning materials by someone in ELNA. If we attended a class, that class was possibly possible because of cooperation and encouragement between ELNA members. If ELNA works, it is because we are working.
We are often asked why Esperanto has not become more widely adopted. My answer: It is remarkable not only that Esperanto continues to prosper but that it is still around at all, given the official neglect and the grassroots nature of Esperanto’s promotion from the earliest years.
Another frequent question, “How many people speak Esperanto?” or “How many Americans speak Esperanto?” We have no way of knowing the answer to either question because so many Esperanto-speakers are not members of any organization. (Similarly, we have no way of knowing how many people play bridge because relatively few join a national association.)
So, what good is ELNA? It’s very difficult to persuade a legislator or an educator to become interested in Esperanto when a big country like ours can show less than one thousand members. For sheer prestige, we need a strong national association.
In short, ELNA represents us to the public; it provides the glue that keeps individuals and groups in touch, encourages common goals, initiates programs, and advises through its information services. And finally, those of us working to promote the use of Esperanto are really quite selfish — after all, the more people using Esperanto, the more value the International Language has for us.
I hope that you have written your 1988 check long before reaching this point. On behalf of the Executive Board of ELNA, I wish you a happy 1988 with many interesting friends added to your roster — a lot of them right here in ELNA!