By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 4

7.1 - Statement of 1948 7.2 - First International Conference

Chapter 7


Power intoxicates men. When a man is intoxicated by alcohol, he can recover, but when intoxicated by power, he seldom recovers.

James F. Byrnes

Chapter 7.1


Statement of 1948

In the councils of Government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought... The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

In July of 1948, the Board of Trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation adopted a set of principles. According to Clarence, Dr. Bob approved that Statement of Principles.

In that statement, the Board said, "The aim of the Foundation (would be to) limit its organization and activities to the bare essentials required to perform its important but limited duties." The Foundation apparently believed A.A. was becoming too organized. And this was something that Dr. Bob was totally against.

Clarence told the author he believed that Dr. Bob had a feeling that, after his (Dr Bob's) death, there would be changes within A.A. in which A.A. would be professionalized and no longer "kept simple." Clarence said this was the reason Doc endorsed the Statement of Principles.

Within its text, the statement contained a plan to inaugurate:

A program of gradual decentralization of headquarters activities to the end that the responsibility of 'carrying the message' may be gradually assumed by local groups and committees.

It also stated that:

The A.A. Movement remains unshackled by the fetters of organization and is kept free from the corroding effect of political procedures which stem from over-organization.

Over-organization was something that the original Ohio members feared the most, Clarence said to the author. He said, they knew that with the passing of Dr. Bob, and the end to influence Dr. Bob had with Bill Wilson, unless there was something in writing, the simplicity of the program might be forever lost.

According to Clarence, when Dr. Bob passed on, the Statement of 1948 was quickly replaced with the so-called Statement of 1950. Dr. Bob's influence and counsel were no longer a factor. Clarence believed the long term members in Ohio were incensed as were other long term members around the country.

The Board of Trustees of the Alcoholic Foundation never really made the original 1948 statement of policy available to the Fellowship except, in a small way, through the Grapevine. But the Grapevine article was worded in such a way that the full impact of the statement was lost.

In a letter to Clarence, a Royal S. wrote:

I enclose a copy of the Statement of 1948 which you may not have seen and which has been virtually suppressed by the Trustees.

This supposed suppression has continued until this day. When the author asked to see a copy of the Statement, he was told that it probably didn't exist and if it did, its whereabouts were unknown.

The full Statement of 1948 and correspondence concerning it is contained in Appendix G.

One of the foundations of the Orthodox Movement was this Statement and its dissemination to the groups for their approval since the groups were never allowed to either see it nor pass on it.

Cleveland wanted to have a celebration for the 15th anniversary of the founding of A.A., the date of Dr. Bob's last drink. And the matter was discussed at length. The result was a decision to hold an international gathering to be sponsored by "The Pioneer Groups... Akron, New York and Cleveland."

Bill Wilson came to Cleveland to attend a meeting of the Cleveland Central Committee on March 7, 1950. The purpose was to discuss the possibility of holding the International Conference in Cleveland. When Bill spoke, he stated that: his opinion and that of Dr. Smith, Cleveland was the logical place for an International Conference because of its geographical location and because of the contribution of the Cleveland Groups to the early growth of A.A., defining this as development of the sponsorship system thus proving that A.A. could work on a large scale instead of only through the original members.

A tentative plan for financing such a conference proposed that each Cleveland Group be asked for $20.00 toward a goal of $2,000.00, and that there be a registration fee of $1.00 for each participant. The foundation was also asked to contribute.

A committee was formed to develop this conference. Dick S. was elected General Chairman of the First International Conference Committee. The committee had high hopes for the proposed conference.

A letter to group secretaries said:

It's going to be one whale of a Conference - more A.A.s by far than have ever been gathered in one place before! At this point it looks like anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000!

When the Conference actually took place, July 28 to 30, there were about 7,000 participants. Three hotels were used for the Conference: the Carter Hotel, the Hollenden Hotel and the Cleveland Hotel. The Big Meeting was to be held on Sunday afternoon at the Cleveland Public Auditorium, which seated 10,000.

The "High Spots" for the Conference were to be as follows:

July 28 (Friday)

10:00 A.M. (Carter Hotel) HOSPITALIZATION. The benefits of co-operation between A.A.s and organized medicine. Doctors will explain the latest in hospital therapy and practice.

2:00 P.M. (Hollenden Hotel) A.A. IN INDUSTRY. Development of cooperative programs among A.A.s and personnel directors in business and industry. (duPont, Eastman Kodak and Thompson Products)

4:00 P.M. THE PRINTED WORD. A symposium on A.A. publications for their editors, writers and managers.

8:30 P.M. (Carter Hotel) THE A.A. FAMILY. A special meeting for Non-alcoholics affiliated with the movement through family ties. The first A.A. wife will speak. (Lois Wilson)

Other meetings on Saturday included: 1) A.A. in Corrective Institutions with Warden Clinton Duffy of San Quentin, 2) The Woman A.A. Meeting (for women only), 3) The A.A. Conference Meeting to discuss definition of the traditions of A.A. and other matters of policy, and a Banquet which was to be followed by entertainment and dancing (for $5.00 per person).

There were to be two highlights on Sunday, July 30. 1) At 10:30 A.M., The Spiritual Significance of A.A. and 2) at 2:00 P.M., The Big Meeting with only two speakers, Dr. Bob and Bill.

The registration for the Conference was $1.50 per person payable at any time during the Conference in order to get the Official Button.

Also introduced at the Conference was the Proposal by the Trustees, Dr. Bob, and Bill for The General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Clarence stated that Dr. Bob was against the General Service Conference until Bill convinced him otherwise. Dr. Bob knew that he was going to die and was convinced that the General Service Conference would be the best thing for A.A. He was also convinced that A.A. was not going to become over-organized due to the Statement of 1948 which promised decentralization. With the Statement of l948 in place and with Bill's convincing, Dr. Bob agreed to put his approval to the General Service Conference.

The International Conference proved to be the last major public appearance for Dr. Bob. He died in November of that same year. After Dr. Bob passed on, A.A. underwent many changes, which Clarence was sure would not have been acceptable to Dr. Bob.

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