Alcoholic Foundation Of Tomorrow
that we are not prophets, and that great decisions about
our future ought to be taken in the meditations of many
hearts rather than a few, the Trustees, Dr. Bob and
I would like to share the following reflections and
proposals with every A.A. member.
Anonymous, we think, will always need a world centersome
point of reference on this globe where our few but important
universal services can focus and then radiate to all
who wish to be informed or helped. Such a place will
ever be needed to look after our overall public
relations, answer inquiries, foster new Groups and distribute
our standard books and publications. We shall also want
a place of advice and mediation touching important questions
of general policy or A.A. Tradition. We shall require,
too, a safe repository for the modest funds we shall
use to carry out these simple, but universal purposes.
course we must take care that our universal center of
service never attempt to discipline or govern. Conversely,
we ought to protect our good servants working there
from unreasonable demands or political demands of any
kind. No personal power, no officials or resounding
titles, no politics, no accumulation of money or property;
none but vital universal services to Alcoholicsthat
is our ideal. To do without such a Center would be to
invite confusion and disunity; to install there a centralized
authority would be to encourage political strife and
cleavage. Some little organization of our services,
securely bound by tradition, we shall surely needjust
enough, and of such a character as to permanently forestall
the middle of A.A. we now have the excellent body of
custody and service described in Part Two of the narrative.
There we saw how our Foundation Trustees have gradually
come to symbolize the collective Conscience of A.A.,
how our General Office acts in the manner of a Heart
which received problems through its veins and pumps
out assistance through its myriad arteries, and how
The GRAPEVINE tries to record the true voice of Alcoholics
Anonymous. Such is the happy state of our central affairs
that we surely must take pains to preserve and protect,
we trust, into a long and useful future.
our headquarters problem of the future will, in all
probability, consist in guarding and preserving, in
its main outlines, what we already have. How then, shall
we best keep intact our ideal of service; how shall
we avoid national or international politics; how can
we best devise against any possible breakdown of the
present A.A. Service Headquarters and how shall we give
each A.A. in the world a continual assurance that all
is well with it; that it continues to perform its task
effectively, so meriting his warm support, moral and
these problems of tomorrow many are giving prayerful
reflection. A. A. s are commencing to say "what,
or who, is going to guarantee the operation of our General
Headquarters when the old-timers who inaugurated it
are passed of f the scene, especially very early ones
like Dr. Bob and Bill. Known so well to us from the
pioneering period of A.A., these early ones still occupy
a unique position. They command a wider confidence and
still wield more personal influence than anyone else
could again, or for that matter, ever should. Having
helped set up our universal Service Center they asked
the rest of us to have confidence in it. And we do have
that confidence, not that we much know the present Trustees,
but because we know Bob and Bill and the other oldsters.
In the long future, when these oldsters can no longer
assure us, who is going to take their place? Does it
not seem clear that the A.A. movement and its Service
Center must soon be drawn closer together? Though we
know our General Office and our GRAPEVINE fairly well,
shouldnt we somehow draw closer to our Trustees?
Shouldnt we take steps to allay our feelings of
remoteness while the older ones are still around, and
there is still time to experiment?" Such are the
questions now being asked, and they are good ones.
the best suggestion for closing the gap between our
Alcoholic Foundation and the A.A. Groups is the idea
of creating what we might call the General Service Conference
of Alcoholics Anonymous.
this might be the work of several years and the result
of much experimental trial and error, I would now like
to indicate what some of us now think such a Service
Conference could be and how it might be started. This
Conference, we think, ought to be composed of a fair
number of good A.A. members meeting annually, at which
time we would seat our present Headquarters down in
their midst. Our Service Headquarters peopleTrustees,
general Office Staff and Grapevine would be members
of the Conference also. We might add our ex-trustees.
The Conference would then hear the reports of each headquarters
department, making whatever recommendation it chose
in that connection. The Conference would, at its conclusion,
issue a full report of its proceedings to every A. A.
in the world.
General Service Conference, like the present Headquarters,
would be no body of authority. It could recommend or
suggest, it might approve or disapprove. But it would
never command or direct, either the Headquarters people
or A.A. as a whole. It ought never, we believe, have
the slightest political complexion. Neither delegates
nor headquarters people would consider themselves political
representatives of any cause or locality. They would,
instead, regard themselves as servants of world-wide
A.A. charged with sitting at its yearly table to render
all of us a few simple services.
is thought, too, that our present Board of Trustees
should retain the privilege of naming their successors,
subject however to one important modification. It is
felt that the Trustees should submit names for their
successors to the Conference for confirmationthat
the Conference might, if it ever seemed desirable, reject
a nomination. This would permit the Conference to exercise,
if it wished, a strong influence on the choice of Trustees,
yet still avoid hasty or ill-considered election. At
the same time, the obvious disadvantage of outright
self-perpetuation without consultation would be avoided.
We think the Conference should, in general, have a privilege
of rejection, but not of election or direction. Should
the Headquarters members of the Conference ever be tempted
to run of f on an unwise tangent, it is anticipated
that the privilege of the Conference to disapprove,
publicly if necessary, would act as a healthy restraint,
sufficient for any contingency.
it can be seen, in effect, that the creation of a yearly
Conference would not radically alter the set-up of our
present Service Headquarters. It would simply broaden
its base to the point where it would always be sure
to engage the complete confidence and support of A.A.
everywhere. It would bring our Trustees into friendly
contact with a representative cross section of A.A.,
it would enable them to feel the pulse of the movement
for themselves; it would securely link them to those
they serve and it would permanently close that gap of
remoteness in which Dr. Bob, I, and others, are still
how shall we actually create the General Service Conference
of Alcoholics Anonymous? Certainly neither Dr. Bob,
I, nor the trustees could hand pick its membership.
That would be too personal. Nor could we throw A.A.
international into a spasm of yearly elections. That
would be too political. As no matter of government or
authority is involved, we shall never need a big gatheringjust
a few good A.A.sto see that our services
are doing well. That will be enough. But how can we
assemble these on a non-political basis? Thats
the puzzle. Perhaps the answer is something like this:
not first go to our twelve largest Groups or areas asking
each to designate our Conference one delegate, say every
three years. The year following the appointment of this
first "Panel of Twelve" we could ask the twelve
Groups next largest in size to select a second panel
of twelve,, and the third year we might repeat the process
so deriving a third "Panel of Twelve." This
would give the Conference a rotating membership of thirty-six
delegates. Adding the Headquarters members we would
then have about fifty in all. For any practical purpose
this would seem large enough. It is possible, of course,
that the Conference itself might wish to name a "special
panel of twelve" which could include foreign delegates
or fill in from sections containing many A.A.s,
but no large Groups. Under such a plan it would fall
mostly to the lot of our large metropolitan areas to
make the individual selections, much more of a headache
perhaps, than an honor. Yet Im sure it can be
done. For the good of A.A. as a whole, we think it must
be done. But how?
other day a friend came up with a proposal: Why, said
he, in areas having strong Central Committees, couldnt
we ask these committees to make the Conference designations?
Couldnt any personal feeling be avoided if a Central
Committee were to make several suitable nominations
and then draw lots to see which nominee would be the
Service Conference delegate? And why not apply the same
principle in cities having several Groups but no Central
Committee? Each Group could vote its choice of a nominee.
Then a drawing from among these Group nominees would
determine the Conference delegate.
methods might not invariably produce the best possible
choices but it would pretty well eliminate personal
competition and would make each General Service Conference
delegate realize that he had been, only by chance, chosen
to do a duty rather than elected to enjoy an honor.
While not perfection, this idea, or some variation of
it, may have great merit for our special purpose. Of
course each locality making a Conference designation
must need to feel at liberty to choose its own methods.
Perhaps it ought to be emphasized that Conference delegates
would not necessarily have to be local leaders or super
A.A. s We would only require a group of good members
capable of sitting down once a year at the Headquarters
to report on the state of our services and A.A. in general.
ought to be noted that these remarks about the non-political
character of our Service Conference have no special
bearing on the desirability of local elections for local
Group purposes. Election is the democratic way of doing
thing so I firmly believe in that principle when at
all practical. It is only because of the tremendous
importance of maintaining the pure service character
of our Headquarters and the manifest impossibility of
electing Trustees, Secretaries and Editors from among
the thousands of A.A. Groups that I feel we should deviate,
in this very special case, from the election process.
Neither would it seem proper or feasible to load our
small, loosely knit and rotating Service Conference
with full responsibility for such choices, though the
Conference should most definitely participate in them,
as already suggested.
more point should be made clear here - while our non-alcoholic
trustees perform a special function at our general Headquarters,
it does not necessarily follow that non-alcoholics are
needed on the average A.A. group rotating committee
dealing with local problems only.
complete our picture of The Alcoholic Foundation of
Tomorrow we suggest one more alteration of the status
quo. The suggestion is that we change the name of The
Alcoholic Foundation to that of the General Service
Board of Alcoholics Anonymous and we would incorporate
the Board (for business transactions only), as Alcoholics
Anonymous Inc. The present trustees would then become
known as members of our A.A. General Service Board.
reasons for these changes are abundantly clear. The
words "Foundation" and "Trustee"
constantly suggest a moneyed institution engaged in
a money charity; they also suggest formalism and authority.
As these concepts no longer characterize our Service
Headquarters, it is clear we ought to abandon such terms.
Then, too, The Alcoholic Foundation has already, though
unintentionally, set a precedent for the formation of
several other "Foundations," sometimes incorporated
under A.A. auspices and usually chartered to solicit
funds for research hospitalization and education. As
our own Foundation now has none of these aims, we see
one more excellent reason to change its name.
our next two steps would seem to be the Foundation name
change and the formation of The General Service Conference
of Alcoholics Anonymous. Each is a simple idea. But
the latter way requires a considerable period of years
to perfect. And may we urge that none consider these
suggestions final, or the best possible. While we are
fairly sure of the general principles involved, this
is not the time to declare, in detail, the precise form
of our future Center of Service. Though our present
convictions on these matters are quite firm, they may
prove far from infallible. Only in the fullness of more
time and experience can they be tested. This is the
spirit in which they are offered.
times of imaginative reflection, Alcoholics Anonymous
seems to me as a cathedral of infinite dimensions in
process of building. Like the cathedrals of graceful
line and stone, our structure of truthful principles
will never be quite finished. There will probably be,
as we better apprehend the truth for us, certain additions,
refinements and perhaps, who knows, marked changes.
to us thousands who now stand in peace on its vast floor,
whereon is inscribed our twelve points of recovery,
and gaze at the great walls and vaulted roof, now so
well buttressed by our A.A. tradition and seemingly
secure against the storms without and subtle perils
within, we wonder that we have come so far without mishap.
it is more to the beckoning spire that some of us now
are looking. Its outlines seem clearly there; workmen
are upon its scaffolds. We may not surely rest secure
until we know that it is firmly anchored; that its symbolic
finger points straight upwardtoward God.
The Trustees of The Alcoholic Foundation ( Intro)
The Alcoholic Foundation
of Yesterday -
The Alcoholic Foundation
of Today - Part 2
The Alcoholic Foundation
Of Tomorrow - Part 3