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General Service Conferences
did the co-founder and de facto leader of a social movement
ever try so early and so fiercely to relinquish his power
and authority as did Bill W. Incredibly, only twelve years
after the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous, nine years after
the formation of the Alcoholic Foundation and eight years
after the Big Book was published, Bill wrote the first of
several controversial and even explosive memos proposing
a General Service Conference. The story of his battle with
the trustees over the issue for the next three years is
related in Chapter XX on the General Service Board. But
finally in 1950, the trustees voted reluctantly to "give
the Conference a try."
was agreed that Conferences would be held on an experimental
basis from 1951 through 1954, and that in 1955 the whole
concept would be evaluated and a final decision made. As
part of this process, the Fourth Conference reviewed and
approved six basic reasons why the Conference idea was needed.
These were introduced at the 1954 meeting by Helen B., the
Conference secretary, but they were obviously authored by
Bill. They were:
Realization that Dr. Bob and Bill couldn't live forever.
The fact that the trustees were generally unknown in the
Recognition that the trustees would need future guidance
from the movement itself.
Appreciation that A.A. was "growing up" and was able to
assume rightful responsibility for Headquarters
The importance of bringing the trustees into closer contact
with the movement.
The need to be prepared to face some potentially grave
crisis with action in the best interests of A.A.
first General Service Conference was held April 20-22, 1951,
at the Commodore Hotel in New York. Bernard Smith, Chairman
of the Alcoholic Foundation and "architect of the
Conference", presided - and also furnished the theme,
which was, "Not to Govern—But to Serve."
The purpose was re-stated as, "The Conference is the
means by which collective conscience can be expressed and
can guide the Trustees of the Foundation on matters of policy
affecting A.A. today and tomorrow" (a statement which
neatly summarized two of the Concepts which were to follow
more than a decade later.)
Delegates from the U.S. and Canada attended—with a
second panel of the same size to be elected the next year.
They met with 15 Trustees, eight nonalcoholic and seven
A.A.'s, and, of course, with Bill and the staff members
from G.S.O. and the Grapevine. But the Trustees and staff
had no vote. In fact a principal raison d'etre of the conference
was to oversee what went on at "Headquarters", and space
was provided on the agenda for the Delegates to "interview"
the directors and staff. The Delegates, mostly A.A. pioneers
in various areas, were awed with their responsibility and
were "scared to death" at the prospect of meeting the Trustees
and the staff. The Headquarters people were equally "scared
to death" at the prospect of being looked over by the Delegates.
Manders, who had been at the office eight months, recalls:
"The feeling was that, wow, here are all these out-of-state
examiners coming in, like bank examiners, to see what we're
doing. Now we're really in trouble, probably all get
fired. That was our feeling—great apprehension, great
fear. Of course, when the Delegates came in, they had the
same apprehension and fear that we had—fear of the unknown.
It worked out fine. Very quickly it settled into the typical
feel of a General Service Conference, even that first one."
figures the Delegates looked at were very impressive. A.A.
in 1951 had 4,000 registered groups with a reported membership
of 120,000. Headquarters, with an annual operating budget
of $107,000, handled 88,000 pieces of mail that year and
distributed one million books and pamphlets. However, income
from the Big Book was inadequate to keep the office going,
so the first appeal to A.A. members for support was written.
Among the other actions taken during the three days of sessions
royalty from his books was increased to 15% with the assurance
that it would continue for his lifetime. Nonalcoholic members
of the Foundation should continue in office; the sense of
the meeting was that "we need and will continue to
need nonalcoholic Trustees." The alcoholic Board members,
however, should have fixed terms of office. A.A. literature
should have Conference-approval. The Conference affirmed
it was operating under a temporary charter for the coming
three years. Some other decisions were deferred until the
following year when the Conference would be at full strength
with two panels.
committees of the Conference were functioning in 1951.(1)
Advisory committee on the budget. (2) Agenda committee.
(3) Conference report—which was actually written by Ralph
B. (4) Committee on new Trustees. Plus (5) a special committee
for literature. (All these committees were still functioning
in 1985 - plus eight more.)
Second G.S. Conference, now lengthened to five days, was
held in the same location April 23-27, 1952. With Delegates
from two panels before him, Bill W. declared exuberantly,
"For the first time in all A.A. history there is now
a broad, complete and reliable cross-section of A.A. opinion
with which to fortify our Headquarters and with which we
can deal with the problems of the future as they come to
us." And for the benefit of the new Delegates, Bern
Smith emphasized again that "the purpose of the Conference
is not to govern A.A., but to serve it." He continued,
"What we do here. . . is not nearly as important,
in my judgement, as the fact that we are here." And
he declared, "We seek not compromise but certainty.
Unless we are sure, unless we are certain, if there is yet
time left to us to make a decision, I regard no decision
as important as to postpone ultimate consideration."
asked to be released from routine duties in order to concentrate
on writing: updating the story section of the Big Book and
writing a new series of essays on the Twelve Steps and Twelve
Traditions. The Literature Committee reported ten projects
had been completed, and ten more were suggested by the Delegates.
Volunteers couldn't accomplish all this work, so the
Conference approved employment of professional writers'
Dr. Jack recalls, "Several Delegates proposed a three-year
term for Delegates. For most of them, the Conference was
an exciting and rewarding experience; I thought their selfish
desires would speak for a third term. But discussion emphasized
that a third term would deprive other members of the opportunity,
and reduce the number who could participate. So the third
year was voted down. It was the group conscience in action,
with the good of A.A. as the deciding factor."
to the final report of the Second Conference, its underlying
tones were progress and humility. Although no important
new decisions were made (the full slate of Delegates did
vote again for retention of nonalcoholic Trustees), Bernard
Smith said in his closing remarks, "I feel the most
important decisions that were made were decisions to table
decisions...We seek not compromise, but certainty."
the Third Conference, held April 22-26, 1953, it was noted
that this was the first year that no Delegates were present
who had attended the 1951 Conference; i. e., the principle
of rotation was -fully in effect. In summarizing the sense
of the Conference, Bill W. sounded one of his favorite themes:
"We are standing on the threshold of maturity. No
one can say in truth that we are really mature yet. This
process of maturing will, of course, go on as long as we
last." He also emphasized the policy of "full
participation" by all; i.e., by staff and Trustees
as well as Delegates. By Conference action - the name of
the publishing arm was changed from "Works Publishing,
Inc." to "Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc."
The Conference also rejected the idea of incorporation of
A.A. per se, as "spiritual faith and a way of life
cannot be incorporated." It was reported that foreign
membership had grown in five years from 82 groups with 2,000
members to 773 groups with 15,520 members!
led a discussion on uniformity, saying, "The more
we insist on conformity, the more resistance we create,...We
become rigid, and at that point begin to die." Bernard
Smith closed the session with these words, "We and
the life we lead within the precepts of A.A. bring a message
to this world: that the Spirit can take hold of our material
world and completely transform it."
Fourth Conference was the last of the "trial"
Conferences. Held April 21-25, 1954, it struck a new note
of confidence, according to Bill W., who also observed that
the Conference was now recognized as a vital factor in the
preservation of the Third Legacy. A significant action was
to change the name of "The Alcoholic Foundation"
to "The General Service- Board of Alcoholics Anonymous,
Inc." The Board reported it had turned down a bequest
of $17,000. According to the final report, the Delegates
showed an awareness that in A.A., responsibility is always
composed of two important elements: responsibility to respect
local autonomy, and responsibility to ensure the survival
of the movement itself.
Fifth G.S. Conference differed from its predecessors in
many ways. The 76 Delegates came to St.Louis to meet June
26-29, 1955, immediately before the 20th Anniversary International
Convention (See Chap. 1). In the words of the final report,
this Conference "executed its social contract with the future"
by adopting the permanent charter, "to assure continuation
of A.A.'s Third Legacy of World Service." Two of its other
actions were of significance: It approved the second edition
of the Big Book, with updated personal histories, with a
retail price of $4.50. -And it defeated a motion to change
the ratio of nonalcoholic to alcoholic Trustees. The Conference
also decided that its meeting should not again be combined
with an International Convention.
the Sixth Conference was again back in the Commodore Hotel
in New York, April 18-22, 1956. The mood was one of "great
confidence." The Delegates were aware of what they had been
able to do, so that "the inherent stability of the Conference
structure no longer appears to be on trial." A number of
policy matters that were discussed involved relations with
the media and the public. The Conference voted again to
retain the proportion between Class A and ClassB Trustees
on the Board. By this time, according to Dr. jack's recollection,
bath the Board and the Conference had begun to work more
through committees, -accomplishing more with more careful
consideration of the subjects. Among the actions relating
to literature, it authorized the production of A.A. Comes
of Age "in a first-class manner" and specified that the
circle-and-triangle symbol be used to indicate conference
proved literature. Puerto Rico was represented for the first
time by a Delegate. At the final session, Bill offered four
principles that should be observed in A.A.: "Petition, Appeal,
Participation and Decision"—thus presaging Concepts
III, IV and V.
theme of the Seventh 'Conference, held April 17-21, 1957,
was "Stability and Responsibility without Complacency."
It was observed that the Delegates were less concerned with
their own areas back home or their own committee work, and
more concerned with the need to strengthen and preserve
the structure of A.A. From several locales, pressure was
coming to increase the number of delegates. So this Conference,
after spending considerable time in discussion, approved,
as a guide for future Admissions Committees, the following
considerations (paraphrased here) affecting the number of
delegates from a given state or province:
the more delegates, the less opportunity for each delegate
to participate at the Conference; (b) granting a request
for an. additional delegate from an area opens the way for
requests from other areas; (c) no request for an additional
delegate should be granted unless the needs are based on
A.A. population and mileage in an area; and (d) any requests
should be - accompanied by a map showing proposed divisions
together with the A.A. population and number of groups involved,
and evidence that an attempt has been made to solve the
problem by restructuring locally within the area. (Actually,
additional Delegates continued to be admitted throughout
the 1960's, until a more severe limit was placed on the
size of the Conference. See below.) Also at this Conference,
Bill made a full accounting of all monies received by him
from 1938, when the Alcoholic Foundation had created the
royalty plan, to 1955.
was a quite a bit of resistance at some of these Conferences
to the royalties that Bill was getting from his writings,"
according to Dr. Jack. "I remember one particularly
when, the criticisms were pretty direct, with Bill sitting
right there. I can still see him as he stood up to defend
himself." That may have been the instance Paul C.
remembers when he was Delegate from Northern California.
"The Delegate from Florida got up and read a long
thing that his area had asked him to read. It was a diatribe
against Bill, how he was making a fortune off of A.A., Calling
him two-faced—literally shredding his character to pieces.
Even the Florida Delegate became so overwhelmed he couldn't
finish and somebody else had to take over reading it. The
following day I was sitting on a bench and Bill came in
and sat down alongside me, and I said, 'Bill, that
thing that was read yesterday was really terrible. I was
sorry to hear it." He put his hand on my knee and
said, 'Paul, at one time the best friend I had in
the world didn't speak to me for five years. I'm
used to this kind of thing and it doesn't bother me.'
Which I thought was really great."
venue of the Eighth Conference was changed to the Prince
George Hotel, an older establishment on 28th Street between
Fifth and Madison Avenues, in the slightly shabby wholesale
district of New York. The change had been pushed by Hank
C., general manager of the office, in the interest of saving
money. When one of the delegates arose on the floor and
called the hotel "a dump," Hank G., who was
presiding, walked out in a rage. Confusion reigned until
Archie Roosevelt persuaded him to return. This Conference,
held April 23-27, 1958, voted change the name of A.A.'s
"General Headquarters" to "General Service
Office," more accurately conveying its position in
the service structure and its function. In the continuing
debate over the trustee ratio (which was to continue for
six more years!), this Conference proposed that the Board
be changed from eight nonalcoholic and seven A.A. trustees,
to nine of each—and that this proposal be taken back
to the areas and decided upon at the 1959 Conference. (It
failed, see below.)
the Ninth Conference, held back at the Commodore Hotel,
April 22-26, 1959, there was much concern about A.A.'s
relations with "outside agencies." Many A.A.
members, including Delegates, were working in these agencies,
and misunderstandings had developed. A study committee on
the subject was appointed, to report back to the Conference;
and the possibility of a pamphlet on the subject was suggested.
It was agreed, however, that it was proper for members as
individuals to accept positions in "outside agencies."
The Conference voted to change the name of A.A.'s
publishing arm from "Alcoholics Anonymous, Inc."
to "A.A. World Services, Inc." which it has
remained. It voted not to change the trustee ratio. And
it changed the recommended contribution to -support the
office from $2 to $3 per member. For the first time, it
adopted a limit of three minutes on each Delegate's
time at the microphone during discussions.
was not sweetness and light nor smooth sailing at the Conference
in these days. The Delegates from California were rebellious;
they were highly critical of the General Service Board and
G.S.O. Dr. Jack recalls, "There were two or three people
who wanted to start their own G.S.O. out in Southern California.
Al H. was sort of the leader of that group, but of course
he came around. Jules P. was another. He was at the microphone
so much during the Conference that he got 'the crying towel,'
the award the Delegates gave to the worst mike-hoggers."
And Paul C. tells of his antagonism to G.S.O. as a Delegate
in 1957-58. "When we got there, they handed us a mimeographed
agenda and summary of what would be discussed. I read it
through and as the Conference -evolved, everything that
was suggested in this document was what took place. When
I questioned what was in it or wanted to change it or argue
about it, the then G.S. manager, Hank G., who was very articulate,
would keep talking and finally 'the consensus of opinion
was...' whatever was in the document. When I got home, I
wrote to him and said 'You're always honking about lack
of money. To save yourselves all this dough, next year just
mail us all this mimeographed stuff and we'll initial it
and mail it back to you—then you can go ahead."
at the Tenth Conference a change toward more tolerance was
noted, a spirit of "live and let live." This meeting, April
20—24, 1960, was the first held at the Hotel Roosevelt
at 45th Street and Madison Avenue, where—except for
three years - all following Conferences were held. The sense
of the meeting was that there was a need for improved communications,
both internal and external, and it was recommended that
the Board make a film showing the scope of A.A. 's World
Services and the demands made on the General Service Office.
(Although such a film was to wait until (WHAT YEAR), an
illustrated flip-chart presentation was made, to show to
groups in the hope of stimulating contributions.) Clubs
for A.A.'s had often created special problems, and a special
Conference Study Committee was appointed to study the subject.
With regard to A.A. and outside agencies, the policy was
determined to be "cooperation, yes—affiliation, no."
Area Highlights were first introduced at the 1960 Conference.
Eleventh Conference, held April 19-23, 1961, with 84 Delegates
present, was the first after the triumphant 25th Anniversary
International Convention in Long Beach, California.. Bill
used the occasion to look back on the past ten Conferences
and note the common characteristics: namely, Service; the
potential for helping around the world; spirituality and
responsibility; and improving communications. "At St.Louis,"
he said, "we old-timers realized that a linkage had to be
made...that this Conference had to be established." He called
it "the transfer of service leadership."
accounting of A.A. abroad indicated the groups numbered
1,112, with 17,737 members. The Conference turned down a
proposal for a paperback Big Book. It also voted against
the release of a moving and historic documentary film of
the Long Beach Convention on the grounds that people wire
shown full face and the anonymity of the many people in
the crowds was broken. Toronto was approved as the site
for the 1965 Convention.
Dr. Norris's election as Chairman of the General Service
board was announced at this Conference, outgoing Chairman
Bernard Smith delivered one of his most eloquent, most memorable
and most repeated talks, which began: "We owe an obligation
to society to insure that this ideal fellowship which we
possess survives, that this flame of faith, this beacon
light of hope for the world, musk never be extinguished.
We may not need a General Service Conference to insure our
own recovery. We do need it to insure the recovery of the
alcoholic who still stumbles in the darkness one short block
from this room. We need it to insure the recovery-of a child
being born tonight, destined to alcoholism..."
Primary Purpose" was the theme of the 1962 (and Twelfth)
Conference (April 25-29, 1962) and a new dedication to unity
was felt. The Conference adopted a plan for six regions
in the U.S. structure, and along with it the addition of
two A.A. regional trustees and two nonalcoholic trustees
to the Board, raising it to 19 members. However, the Conference
reaffirmed overwhelmingly that the majority of nonalcoholics
be retained. The crowning action of the 1962 Conference
was the acceptance of "Bill's long awaited Twelve Concepts
for World Service.
main service tasks are now complete," Bill told the
Conference, in which he played a less prominent role than
before. "The future belongs to you." He traced
the steps he had taken to place A.A. wholly on its own.
"So let us cast aside our fears. Let us trust each
other..." Bill called the Conference "this wonderful
organ of consultation and action" and also expressed
special gratitude to his "associates in World Service
operations. Under trying conditions, their dedication to
this world effort is something without parallel."
And again referring to his oft-expressed wish "to
be made a member of this Society," he ended by saying,
"Please know that I will be among you. I am not leaving;
I am simply changing my stance."
Fellowship Takes Its Inventory" was the theme of the
Thirteenth Conference (April 24—28, 1963) and was
the subject of a special presentation by three nonalcoholic
Trustees, each recognized authority in. a field concerned
with alcoholism. This emphasis was prompted by the shock
of the sharply critical article by Arthur Cain in Harper's
magazine that January (See Chaps. 2 &13) Acknowledging
that the article "had done great damage" by
discouraging men women from coming to A.A., Austin MacCorinick
also pointed out good statements the author made, including,
"I still believe that A.A. provides the best possible
way, at present for most alcoholics to get sober and start
a new life without -alcohol." Prof. Harrison Trice
said the article may be of great benefit to A.A. by forcing
it to "consider real questions, not ritual ones."
He warned, A.A. does "run a grave risk of being identified
with religion" and asked, "How can any social
movement 'come of age' in any realistic sense
when it has been so universally admired, so over-protected
[from criticism]?" Dr. Harry Tiebout, the psychiatrist,
compared the organization to the individual member who starts
out with enthusiasm and a kind of blind fervor. Then "this
phase of putting A.A. on a pedestal evaporates. . . Each
member does what he can and leaves the rest to a Higher
Power." So, he concluded, most A.A.'s are able
to look at the contents of the article objectively and thus
profit from the insights it contains. WA.A. is known not
by' its advertising, but by its works. Its position
in community life is secure. No article can shake the hold
which over 25 years 'of successful service has created."
W. called the presentation "a historic moment in our development"
and praised the inventory-taking process. And the sense
of the conference was summed up as being '"preoccupied with
the function of A.A. rather than its structure" and acknowledging
that "what we are doing and how well we are doing it should
be reviewed continuously."
the Conference recommendations was that G.S.O. staff members
visit the Areas more frequently providing the economic problems
involved can be resolved.
Fourteenth Conference ran from Tuesday, the 21st, through
most of Sunday, the 26th of April, 1964—thus becoming
the first to cover a six-day span. It directed that the
sentence, "This is A.A. General Service Conference approved
literature" appear on applicable pieces. The Conference
also approved the royalty agreement on Bill's writings which
had been worked out between the co-founder and AAWS and
approved by the General Service Board, to provide for Lois
W. after Bill's death. (For more detail, see Chap. XX- on
GSB) This is the agreement that was still in effect in 1985.
plan for restructuring the General Service Board, hammered
out by the Board itself and containing the much discussed
ratio-change, was presented to the Fifteenth Conference
by Dr. Jack Norris, Board Chairman. He asked the Delegates
to consider the plan for a year and be prepared to vote
on it in April 1966. Eighty-seven Delegates were present
plus 36 other members of the Conference for a total of 123
meeting April 19-24, 1965. Bill W. then endorsed the Trustees'
plan in a lengthy and eloquent address in which he traced
the history of the Foundation and the Board and stressed
to spiritual values of the proposal.
Jack recalled later, "For those eleven years that
Bill was pushing for the ratio change, a great deal of time
and energy at the Conferences was spent in battling over
it. A majority of the Delegates were reluctant to consider
a change because, I think, of 'their sense of loyalty
to the nonalcoholics. One or two of the nonalcoholics -
Austin MacCormick, for one - were in favor of the change.
There had never been a split between the nonalcoholic and
the alcoholic Trustees. In any foreseeable situation, we
nonalcoholics would always bow to the opinions of the alcoholics.
They were closer to reality than we were."
desirability of a three—year term for Delegates was
again raised, and the Conference reaffirmed the value of
the two-year term. Similarly, it disapproved a related proposal
that former Delegates be permitted to attend Conference
meetings as observers.
Mike R. from Oklahoma was there as a Delegate 1965-66. "When
I was elected Delegate, I was never so thrilled in my life.
That period of service was the most exciting 'time
of my life. . .When the Conference talked about a proposed
three-year term for Delegates, I wanted that more than anything
in the world. I felt I had just reached the point that I
knew enough to be useful to the Fellowship. But as they
discussed this, I felt more and more the three-year term
was wrong. So I voted against it; and it just killed me."
important financial recommendation was that group discounts
on the Big Book which had been waived to permit creation
of an adequate Reserve Fund now be devoted, instead, to
develop a pension plan for employees of G.S.O. and the Grapevine
upon their retirement. And they heard with enthusiasm that
advance reservations for the 30th Anniversary Convention
in. Toronto already exceeded 6,000.
the historic action of the Sixteenth Conference, meeting
April 18-23, 1966, was the acceptance of the restructuring
of the Board including the ratio change to 14 alcoholic
and seven nonalcoholic Trustees. (For more detail, see Chap.
XX on CSB) Mike R. again: "Roy S. [from Oklahoma]
was the outgoing Regional Trustee my first year, and he
was disenchanted with the idea of a structural change in
the Board. Lane P. [another past Delegate] also opposed
it. He said, 'How can they say A.A. has come of age
when we're not really even self-supporting?'
That hit home with me. So much as I wanted to vote with
Bill and to give him what he wanted, I didn't think
it was right. I voted against it. A bunch out of Canada
were leading that side of the fight. Since that time, I've
come to realize I was wrong. But it's the way I felt
at the time. And it's funny, you know, because if
I had been successful with the vote I made, I probably never
would have been Regional Trustee!
that vote and Bill W. won, he was the happiest man I've
the theme of the Conference, "Principles before Personalities"
and from the "I am Responsible" declaration
adopted at the Toronto Convention, the key ideas of "principles"
and "responsibility" were reiterated again and
again during the week and were expressed in many of the
recommendations. A Conference Institutions Committee was
established. Encouragement's were suggested to help
Loners become groups, and to help A.A. groups in small communities.
G.S.0. and Area committees were urged to help strengthen
Intergroups and Central Offices.
Seventeenth Conference was smooth and harmonious, with "Sponsorship
- the Hand of A.A." as its theme. Held April 17-22,
1967, it hailed new Regional, Trustees, elected at the Conference
for the first time. It. also hailed new and successful literature
(The A.A. way of Life and the first pamphlet in comic-book
format. See Chap. XX on Literature). It approved Miami as
the site of the
International Convention; and raised the limit on individual
contributions from $100 to $200. The 89 Delegates presented
a plaque of appreciation to Herb M. upon announcement of
his retirement as General Manager of C.S.O. He had suffered
a severe heart attack seven years previously and felt now
that he had been "running too hard." (For more on Herb M.,
see Chap. XX on GSB and Chap. XX on G.S.O.)
Eighteenth Conference (April 22-27, 1968) also proceeded
with a minimum of controversy but its members took a number
of actions of major and lasting importance. They put their
stamp of approval on the idea of a World Service Meeting
and agreed to participate in the first one to be held in
New York in 1969. In the area of Public Information, they
approved a proposal to conduct a survey among A.A. members,
the first of its kind ever attempted. And they reaffirmed
that full-face appearance by an A.A. member on TV, press
and films is an anonymity break even though the name is
withheld. (See Chap. 13) Bill spoke to the Conference on
the importance of unity—and, since the Twelve Traditions
relate to unity, he bade A.A. hold fast to the Traditions.
He noted, "We are entering a new era of growth."
(A.A.'s size, as recorded at the 1968 Conference,
was 14,154 groups worldwide with 263,000 reported members,
or over 400,000 estimated membership.) "The problems
of the future may be greater than those we have already
survived. Still, there is a love among us that passeth all
understanding. And that will sustain us through all the
trials that lie ahead, no matter how formidable."
the Nineteenth Conference, Bob H., the newly chosen general
manager of G.S.O. delivered possibly the most cogent, incisive
and clearest summary of A.A. 's service structure
and the relationship of its parts ever attempted, ending
with, "To sum up: The Board formulates policy; the
Conference approves policy; and G. S .0. Implements policy."
In a similar vein, Dennis M., AAWS controller, used large
bar-graphs and charts to present in complete and frank detail
how A.A. s finances work. He emphasized the difficulty of
budgeting against erratic contribution income, with all
services operating at a deficit until the last weeks of
the year, and urged the groups to follow a Regular Contribution
April 21-26, 1969, the Conference was the first to discuss
Young People in A.A. as a discrete group. Having grown now
to 90 Delegates, it declared a two-year moratorium on admission
of additional Delegates. And it elected Warren S., Delegate
from Southern California, and Charles D., Delegate from
Central Michigan, (both drawn from the hat) to represent
North America at the first World Service Meeting to be held
followed, then, that several reports of that first World
Service Meeting (See Chap. 17) were high points of the Twentieth
Conference, which approved participation in future WSM's.
Due to problems with the Hotel Roosevelt, the venue of this
Conference was moved to the Hotel New Yorker, 34th St. and
Eighth Ave. It wrestled with two issues it had broached
before and would deal with many times in the future: the
attendance of nonalcoholics at closed meetings (in this
case, in institutions), and the problem of dual addiction
to both alcohol and mood-changing drugs. In the latter discussion,
nonalcoholic Trustee, Dr. Vincent Dole, himself an authority
in the drug field, urged A.A. not to dilute its efforts.
times during the five days, the conferees referred to the
theme, "Service: The Heart of A.A" Eric B.,
Delegate from Washington state, dwelt movingly on it in
his keynote, saying, "What is service? Yes, it is
a cup of coffee. It is getting up at 2:00 o'clock
in the morning to call on a sick alcoholic. It is an area
assembly or a General Service Conference. It is the end
of a broom..."
Twenty-First Conference, held April 19-24, 1971, at the
Hotel New Yorker for a second year, was the first without
Bill W. He had died January 24, 1971 (For a full account,
see Chap. XX on the GSB). Among the moving tributes was
that of Dr. Jack Norris, Chairman of the Genera]. Service
Board, who had known him so well. He said, "As I see
it, Bill. was the good sponsor, the wise old-timer—willing
to let go of us before we were willing to let go of him.
This was not only because he wished us all the greatest
good, but because he had an abiding faith that our Fellowship
not only could, but should, run without him.
know that Bill believed that the wisdom of A.A. was to be
found in the group conscience," Dr. Norris continued,
"that it came out of church basements and not from
the pulpit; that it was directed from the groups up through
the delegates and the Conference structure, rather than
the other way around."
loss of Bernard Smith, long-time nonalcoholic Trustee, was
also mourned. He had died July 31, 1970, immediately after
the Miami International Convention. Margaret C., Delegate
Chairperson, said, "Bern Smith loved the spiritual
'oneness' upon which this Fellowship is based,
so much that he gave over twenty-five years of service to
help create the structural 'oneness' that will
keep us strong."
remarked on the - aptness of the Conference theme, "Communication:
Key to A.A. Growth", in discussing ways to carry the
message more effectively. With much more stringent guidelines
in place on applications for additional area delegates,
the moratorium was lifted.
1972 Conference (the Twenty-Second), April 17-22, back at
-the Hotel Roosevelt, was an active one in terms of recommendations
made. Bill's widow, Lois W. offered their home, Stepping
Stones, as a gift to Alcoholics Anonymous. After lengthy
and emotional discussion, the Conference voted unanimously
not to accept the property, in keeping with the Traditions.
From the viewpoint of the G.S.O. staff, a critically important
action was taken when the Conference declared, "...G
.S .0. should not be asked to intervene or otherwise involve
itself in local disputes or misunderstandings." Also,
G.S.O. should not accept contributions from clubs. The limit
on contributions from individual members was raised from
$200 to $300 annually. Advisory actions regarding groups
were: An AA. group should not be named after a person, living
or deceased. "Family groups" (i e., those made
up of A.A.'s and their nonalcoholic mates) should
not be listed as such in the Directories, as they should
be regarded as "meetings" and not A.A. groups.
And alcohol and pill groups should not be listed in A.A.
directories or meeting lists. To avoid politicking at the
Conference, it was decided a Delegate shall not be eligible
to be proposed for trustee candidate until after he has
attended his last Conference.
thrust of the Twenty-Third Conference, held April 24-29,
1973, was an in-depth examination of the service structure—the G.S .R, the D. C.M., the Area Committee, the Delegate
and the Trustee; the conduct of Area Assemblies and the
General Service Conference. As part of the result, the Conference
suggested that past delegates not hold office as G.S.R.'s
or D.C.M.'s, but find other ways to become involved
in area service; also, that newcomers should learn about,
and become involved in, the A.A. service structure as soon
as possible. The electoral procedure for Regional Trustees
came under intense scrutiny, but no major changes were made.
The A.A. Directories were examined in detail,
guidelines were accepted for their use. Also, a one-year
moratorium on publication of the Directories was granted
to introduce a new system of production and to provide time
to change over. The question of listing special interest
groups (i.e., gay groups) in the Directories was raised,
and it was suggested that the whole subject of special interest
groups in general be an agenda item for 1974.
so it was - and turned out to be the most time-consuming
and possibly the most significant policy decision by the
1974 Conference (the Twenty-Fourth), held April.22-27. The
discussion and sometimes heated debate regarding special
interest groups not only consumed all the allotted agenda
time, but extended to fill all Tuesday afternoon. Still
unresolved, it was carried over to a special session Wednesday
evening - which lasted late into the night. In the end,
the Conference affirmed that all A.A. groups should be listed
in the A.A. Directory, in accordance with the description
of "An A.A. Group" long carried in the Directory.
"The Conference members further agreed that any A.A.
member ideally should be welcome at any A.A. meeting. This
would apply even to meetings held by members sharing special
interests who choose (in line with Tradition Four on group
autonomy) group names which may sound somewhat restrictive
(such as groups for men only, women only, physicians, study,
ethnic groups, those speaking certain languages, young people,
priests, gay groups, policemen, beginners, lawyers and other
professions, vocations, etc.) especially when no other meeting
is available for an alcoholic who needs a meeting."
Conference recommended a change in the electoral procedures
for Regional Trustees, changing the number of voters from
the region involved compared with those from Trustees'
and Conference Committees. A go-ahead was given on completion
of the booklet, Living Sober. Appropriately, the theme of
the Conference was "Understanding and Cooperation
-lnside and Outside A.A."
H., Panel 23 Delegate from Southern California, tells of
his experience. "When I became Delegate, the first
thing, I got bounced on by old past Delegates telling me
how things were crooked back at G. S.O., that they controlled
the agenda and that they would work it so that you would
think what they were saying was the group conscience of
A.A. as a whole. From my own study of the Concepts and the
Traditions, I plain didn't believe them. When I went
back there, I watched everything, and if I had questions,
I found they were always answered. No question I ever asked
was swept under the rug. As for the people who worked at
G.S.0., I thought we were very fortunate as a society to
have such dedicated people." David's area was
incensed over the Board's choosing people with media
experience to serve as non-Trustee members of the P.I. Committee.
Although this was not on the agenda, David "went up
and saw Bob H. [who was presiding] and told him I was concerned
about it and wanted to exercise the right of appeal. He
said, 'Certainly, David we'll make time for
you.' So I made my presentation. . . I tell people
all the time, when the group conscience is given the information
and given the right to express itself, I have never seen
it wrong. Whenever an individual or a group feels strongly
about a subject and wants to bring it to the Conference,
avenues are open to us, providing we go through the channels
that are there."
The 1975 meeting (April 20-26) marked the Silver Anniversary
of the General Service Conference. Implementing the theme,
"Unity - Through Love and Service," special
emphasis was placed on the Traditions and concepts. A "Concepts
Illustrated" pamphlet was suggested for the first
time - only to be brought to reality eleven years later!
(See Chap. 12) With the public press giving much attention
to teen-age alcohol abuse, the Conference recommended that
two teen-age stories be added to the "Young People
and A.A." pamphlet, and that a separate comic-book
style pamphlet directed at teen-agers be developed. It also
directed that a presentation on the feasibility of a paperback
edition of the Big Book be made to the 1976 Conference.
Conference approved, for the first time, the use of members'
full names and addresses throughout the final report, since
it is confidential. It learned that the number of A.A. groups
that year exceeded 25,000 worldwide for the first time,
with a reported membership of over 500,000 (800,000 estimated).
Dr. Jack Norris presented a proposal for regional mini-conferences
which the Conference accepted with the recommendation the
concept be "further explored and eloped." (For
the full story of Regional Forums, see Chap. XX on GSB and
Chap. XX on Forums). In four pages of very detailed financial
reports, the Delegates learned that in 1960, there had been
one G.S.O. employee for every 278 groups; in 1975, there
was one for every 330 groups. And, although the C.S.O. budget
increased during the same period from $243,000 to $834,000,
the cost of living also increased 80%. So, adjusting for
this change in dollar value, be "further explored
and developed." In four pages of very detailed financial.
reports, during the same period from $243,000 to $834,000,
the cost of living also increased 80%. So, adjusting for
this change in dollar value, the cost of services per group
actually showed a decrease from $28.25 to $18.65.
1976, the size of the Conference had grown to 133 members,
broken down as follows: 91 Delegates, making up 68.4%; 27
Trustees and Directors, 20.3%; 15 G.S.0. and GV Staff, 11.3%.
The Conference marked several impressive milestones, as
Dr. Jack Norris, Chairman of the General Service Board reported,
"Bill. W. used to dream of the day when a hundred
thousand drunks might flock to A.A. in a single year. Well,
that day has come. The Fellowship is growing by more than
100,000 members per year. This year, for the first time,
we conservatively estimate membership at over a million."
A.A. groups worldwide totaled almost 28,000. It was also
reported that sales of A.A. literature spurted more than
50% in a single year - the largest such increase in history.
Just five years before, in 1970, 54,700 copies of the Big
Book were distributed; in 1975, 176,300 copies!
Conference accepted epoch-marking recommendations of the
Finance Committee, which literally changed the way A.A.
handled its finances. George D., Delegate from the Northern
Coastal area of California, a member of the Finance Committee
in 1975 and its Chairman in 1976, explains, "I talked long,
one on one, with Art Miles, the Treasurer of the Board,
about the increasing dependence on literature profits and
the fact it might cause problems of A.A. unity—that
is, the Board and the office might become less responsive
- to the groups. I went home - that year and really studied
the financial reports and two things were- apparent: first,
that with the increase in volume, we were making a lot of
money—too much—from literature; second, the
way we were dealing with the question of prudent reserve
was absolutely ridiculous. That is, the Reserve Fund had
a limit of $500,000, so there was all kinds of money laying
around in the corporate accounts [AAWS and GV.] -surpluses
in the corporate accounts far beyond any operating needs.
When I returned in '76, I think I became a point man for
a couple of people - Art Miles and Bud Flanagan [A.A.'s
outside auditor and financial consultant] - to do what they
felt needed to be done. - At the Conference Finance Committee
meeting in '75, I think one Trustee had showed up; in '76,
there were ten of them, acting very wary. There were also
a couple of firebrands among the Delegate members who wanted
to go much farther than I wanted to go, to a point I felt
would violate the Concepts. Anyway, we had our two meetings,
and Bob H. said afterward that in all the years he had attended
the Conferences, he'd never seen a committee go through
what we went through."
result was a recommendation that the General Service Board
and AAWS consider reducing net income from the sale of literature
"by appropriate means, such as" a substantial reduction
in. the price of the Big Book; liberalizing the discount
structure; and distributing more gratis or low-cost literature.
Also, a recommendation that the Board examine and restate
the meaning of prudent reserve. Final action on these recommendations
carried over to 1977, when the limit on the Reserve Fund
was redefined as an amount equal to the previous year's
combined operating expense of AAWS and the Grapevine. And
as a part of this move, the Boards of these two entities
agreed to transfer annually to the General Fund (and from
there to the Reserve Fund) any surpluses beyond reasonable
operating funds. The result was that all surplus money came
under the direct control of the Board of Trustees.
hearing the feasibility report on a possible paperback Big
Book, the 1976 Conference voted to "keep the Big Book
as it is at this time." But it recommended going forward
with Regional Forums.
the Hotel Roosevelt turned up with insufficient space for
the period from the 18th to the 23rd of April, 1977, the
Twenty-Seventh Conference took place at the Statler Hilton
Hotel, on Seventh Ave. at 33rd St. A roll was called of
all 133 members, for the first time, to launch the opening
session. Also, 61 nonalcoholic employees of G.S.O. were
introduced by Bob P., general manager of G.S.O. and vice—chairman
of the Conference, to prolonged applause as the Delegates
expressed appreciation for their service.
Jack Norris gave the highlights of the first 26 Conferences
as he saw them (Dr. Jack had attended every one!). He began
his talk by saying: "The goal of everyone attending
every Conference was and is the good of A.A. Personal and
local special interests have fallen into place, with emphasis
on the group conscience as shown to us by our Higher Power;
with the insistence that every minority, no matter how small,
be heard; with agreement that action on any subject of importance
be postponed unless there is substantial unanimity. There
was not always complete agreement; lines at the microphones
were often long. But solutions were worked out to almost
everyone's satisfaction, and those who weren't
entirely satisfied knew they had been given a fair hearing.
have come away from every Conference wishing governments
would function as we do in A.A."
Conference heard a presentation on A.A. Directories and
made a number of pertinent recommendations including listing
states and provinces alphabetically rather than by regions,
for the convenience of the travelling A. A.; full names
and phone numbers should be published, for use in Twelfth
Step work; and group contributions should continue to be
listed. A report was made on a study of the feasibility
of moving the General Service Office out of New York City,
and the Conference agreed, as recommended by the General
Service Board, that it would not be in the best interest
of the Fellowship to relocate at this time.
Dr. Norris opened the 1978 Conference (the Twenty-Eighth,
held April 16-22 back at the Hotel Roosevelt) by welcoming
the members to his last, session as chairperson of the General
Service Board (though he continued to attend as Chairperson
Emeritus.) Mac C., Trustee-at-large, Canada, in his keynote
on the theme, "The Member of the Group - Recovery
Through Service," quoted the Big Book, "Our
real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service
to God and the people about us.' Service to God and
my fellows is the reason I am given sobriety, and there
is no other reason. If I fail to serve, my purpose in life
will be unfulfilled."
Because one of the Delegates felt that insufficient consideration
had been given to the action taken the year before, a presentation
was made on the possible relocation of the General Service
Office. However, the conference then reaffirmed the previous
recommendation that it would not be in the best interest
of the Fellowship to relocate G.S.O. at this time. Similarly,
an attempt was made to reintroduce the question of listing
special-interest groups in the A.A. Directories, but it
was decided not to include the subject on the agenda. This
was the first Conference to view footage of a possible A.A.
film for the outside world. After satisfying themselves
that anonymity was protected, they gave a go-ahead to expand
the footage into a documentary film, and the scope of the
Conference Literature committee was officially expanded
to include audio-visual materials, henceforth.
the closing brunch, when Dr. Jack was presented with a specially
commissioned bronze sculptured portrait in appreciation,
he responded with, "I'm the one who should be
thanking you. What little I've been able to do as
board chairman, I didn't do. As Dr. Bob said, I was
just a channel."
Twenty-Ninth Conference, held April -22-28, 1979, was the
first chaired by Dr. Milton Maxwell as Chairman of the General
Service Board (though his association with A.A. went back
to 1947. For more on this remarkable man, see Chap XX on
GSB). Although he was to serve only four years (see below),
he became much loved and respected. In his first report
to the Conference, he stated, "The number of A.A.
groups [U.S./Canada] grew by 1,654 in 1978. Sales of Conference-approved
literature are going off the charts! After reaching an all-time
high in. 1978, sales in January 1979 jumped 30% over January
1978. Big Book distribution passed the 2,000,000 mark last
October and could reach 3,000,000 by late 1981. We don't
play the "numbers game," but these figures indicate
the health and vigor of the Fellowship."
Conference responded to some confusion and uneasiness on
the part of some Delegates regarding the status of non-trustee
members of Trustees' Committees. An integral and essential
part of every Conference was the joint meeting of Conference
Committees with the corresponding Trustees' Committees
before the former began their separate meetings. Non-trustee
members were therefore present during part of the opening
day and were customarily included in the luncheon following
the joint meetings. Otherwise they were limbo. This conference
reaffirmed a previous action that two non-trustee members
of each Trustee's Committee may attend as observers
for one-half of one day with no voice and no vote.
At the closing brunch of the Thirtieth Conference (April
20-26, 1980) Bob P., vice-chairman, characterized it as
"outstanding" because of the feeling of unity
that prevailed and the number of important decisions that
emerged. Among these were: The documentary film, "Alcoholics
Anonymous - An Inside View", after a year of restricted
and carefully controlled showings, was released for general
distribution. The Conference also recommended that the pictures
of Bill W. and Dr. Bob remain in the-film. Conference-approval
was given to the biography, Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers:
also, to the pamphlet, "A Newcomer Asks," adapted
from Great Britain. The archives filmstrip, "Markings
on a Journey," was approved. After hearing exciting
reports about the upcoming 45th Anniversary International
Convention in New Orleans, the Conference recommended that
simultaneous translations in French, Spanish and German
be provided at no charge at the Big Meetings (even though
it was not budgeted.) After the Delegates had visited G.S.O.
as part of conference week, they made a spontaneous and
exuberant recommendation that "when G.S.O. and Grapevine
offices are expanded, the offices be modernized and the
appearance of the reception area and office as a whole be
entire Conference sharing session centered on three specific
topics concerned with "How well is our Conference
structure working?" (1) "Reconsider having 75%
of the votes in the hands of the Delegates." (The
sense of the meeting overwhelmingly was to retain the present
ratio.) (2) "The role of the general service trustees
and how they are elected." (After illuminating discussion
about their duties, satisfaction was expressed with current
procedures.) (3) "The delegate term should be extended
from two to three years." (Once again, rotation every
two years was favored throughout the whole Conference structure.
B., Delegate from Southern Minnesota and Delegate Chairperson,
was an articulate spokesman, saying he had come to his first
Conference the previous year "overprepared and anxious."
He continued, "I viewed the staff and trustees as
being superior. But (I discovered) they are first and foremost,
drunks. They earned their stripes the same way you and I
did. I had a tremendous fear of making a mistake. Now I
think the greatest ability the Fellowship as a whole has
is the ability to withstand mistakes...Our safety doesn't
come from making perfect decisions; our safety comes from
being a group conscience. If something gets done less than
perfectly, there will be another committee, another Conference
who will change it if it has to be changed."
Cec C., rotating Western Canada Regional Trustee, ended
his closing talk with, "To the delegates: don't
take yourself too seriously, learn to participate and do
your homework, as it is difficult to lead people if you
don't know where you are leading them. To the staff:
please keep dedication and your love. To the board: as we
participate, let's always remember we do not represent
areas or regions, but A.A. worldwide."
detailed income and expense statement for the New Orleans
International Convention was given to the Thirty-First Conference
(April 26—May 2, 1981). It showed a deficit of $202,950
(See Chap. 21) and as a result, the Conference recommended
that future Conventions "not be planned to operate
on a deficit basis, and...be self-supporting." Also
Montreal was approved as the site of the 1985 Convention
(subject to General Service Board inspection.)
Maxwell reported that almost 3,400 new groups in the U.S./Canada
listed themselves with G.S.O. in 1980, but expressed concern
over the large number not listed. Distribution of the Big
Book reached 1,000 copies per day! But the percentage of
A.A. groups contributing to the support of G.S.O. continued
slowly to decline. However, from literature income, AAWS
was able to transfer about $703,500 to the General Fund.
note, John B. was approved for election as a General Service
Trustee from the AAWS Board. He was to become general manager
of G.S.O. four years later.
In addition to normal committee business, the attention
of the Thirty-Second Conference was focused on A.A. finances,
the publishing operation, G.S.O. and related operating matters.
The 18 months prior to Conference time (April 18-24, 1982)
was occupied with the construction and refurbishing project
at G.S.O. and the Grapevine (see 1980 action, above), during
which the staff and employees kept functioning at full capacity
despite the demolition and construction going on around
them. The Delegates were duly impressed during their Conference
presentations were made on "How we run a big (and
spiritual) business, "embracing astonishing facts
and figures on publishing and finance from Dennis Manders,
0.5.0 controller and chief administrative officer. This
was followed by a report by Frank Smeal, Treasurer of the
Board; and a look into the Fellowship's financial
future by John B., Trustee and Chairman of AA.
the conclusion of the Conference, Dr. Milton Maxwell stepped
down as Chairman, for health reasons. During his term, he
had attended all Regional Forums and now expressed his view
that they were "one of the Board's most worthwhile endeavors.
And from his World Service Meeting experience, he remarked
on the "dramatic strengthening of the A.A. service structure"
in many countries around the world. Viewing Alcoholics Anonymous
as a sociologist, he concluded his farewell talk with these
remarks, "What Bill and Dr. Bob and other key persons helped
design is different, and I believe A.A.'s survival and effectiveness
lie in these very differences. In a general society characterized
by competitive striving for status, recognition, power,
and their material symbols, A.A. has a recovery program
based upon opposite values -upon learning and an un-self-centered
way of life...Furthermore, A.A. has a collective life—Traditions,
Concepts, minimum structure—that is remarkably in
harmony with the basic recovery program. There's no confusion
of ends and means. There's an internal harmony of program
and principles and practices that stands in striking contrast
to the operations of most organizations. While it is true
that no human organization lasts forever or is immune from
drift or foundering, it appears to me that A.A. is provided
with unusual assets for keeping itself on course. My faith
in this survival was renewed and strengthened during this
Maxwell was replaced by Gordon Patrick. (See Chap XX on
In his report to the Thirty-Third Conference the following
year (April 17-23, 1983), Gordon Patrick said, "When
I am asked what I feel is A.A.'s biggest current problem,
I have to reply, 'Drug addicts attending closed meetings.'
At Regional Forums and other service conferences, I hear
substantial agreement that A.A. is for alcoholics, not for
those with other problems; and I have heard much useful
sharing on ways that groups handle the problem. Dr. Jack
Norris, in his report at the 1978 Conference, said almost
exactly the same thing!"
Conference recommended that the next membership survey,
in 1983, be conducted on a random basis by area (instead
of having Delegates distribute the forms). It was also noted
that in connection with the previous survey, other A.A.
membership surveys had been made by overseas countries:
Great Britain, France, Belgium, Finland, Brazil and New
Zealand. Their data had been analyzed by John B., who reported
that most findings correlated closely with U.S./Canada figures
(although significant national differences emerged regarding
proportion of women and young people.)
publishing milestone, the shipping of the three millionth
copy of the Big Book, was passed without fanfare as sales
continued to grow. Indeed, in January 1983, as many Big
Books were sold as in the entire year of 1970.
highlight of the Thirty-Fourth Conference (April 15-21,
1984) was the report of the A.A. Grapevine on its 40th Anniversary
(for a complete history of the Grapevine, see Chap. XX).
After running a deficit for several years, which had elicited
the concern of previous Conferences, the magazine reported
revenues exceeding $1,000,000 for the first time in its
history and an operating profit of $14,000. The report attributed
this to "an increase in subscriptions, proper pricing
for the magazine and special items, and a sharp eye on production
costs. Also, the first cassette tapes of stories issued
in 1983 were -enthusiastically received, and the 1984 Conference
recommended that more tapes be produced.
Board announced that John B. had been selected to succeed
Bob P. as general manager of G.S.O.; and that he would resign
his positions as Trustee and a Director of AAWS effective
May 1, when he would join the office.
biography of co-founder Bill W. was approved with the title
Pass It On. After more than three years of debate and postponements,
the Conference recommended that a pamphlet for the homosexual
alcoholic not be developed and that the draft of such a
proposed pamphlet which had been developed, be dropped.
(For a more complete account, see Chap. XX on Lit.) The
Conference rejected the draft of a proposed popularly-written
history of A.A.'s "First 50 Years" as
being too superficial; however, it was the sense of the
meeting that, in keeping with precedent, a souvenir book
for the 50th Anniversary International Convention be prepared
under the auspices of the Board which would not be intended
as lasting A.A. literature and so would not require Conference
The Conference took note of the increase in Hispanic groups
in U.S./Canada and made a number of recommendations to encourage
their participation in the general service structure, including
encouragement of areas to provide for Hispanic districts
with a bilingual D.C.M. or other liaison, and to provide
G.S.R. schools, seminars and assembly workshops in the Spanish
language. In response to a question raised by a Delegate
as to what constitutes a quorum at the Conference for voting
purposes, it was decided that it was adequately defined
and should not be changed. (Nevertheless, this question
was brought up again and wrestled with by the two following
"Golden Moments of Reflection" was the theme
of the Thirty-Fifth General Service Conference (April 14-20,
1985) marking A.A.'s 50th Anniversary year. (A summary
of the state of Alcoholics Anonymous at fifty years is given
in the final chapter, Chap. xx. Also, for reaction of the
outside world, see Chap. Xx on A.A. in the Media.) In his
report, Gordon Patrick, Chairperson of the Board, remarked,
"There's no doubt that our rate of growth has
been greater during the past five years than previously,
much of it through increased participation of young people
and dually addicted alcoholics. Court and hospital referrals
have created problems, and we have found some solutions
that work. We are talking freely about these problems, with
less anger, more humor, and more hope. The unity of our
Fellowship no longer seems to be threatened, even though
difficult problems are yet to be solved. Our resolve to
preserve our singleness of purpose seems undiminished."
also noted that John B. had replaced Bob P. as general manager,
would replace Bob on the AAWS Board after the Conference,
and would assume full managerial responsibility after the
Montreal convention. "After 35 years of service to
the Fellowship," Gordon continued, "Dennis Manders
will retire in November 1985 at age 60. Dennis...has directed
G.S.O.'s administrative affairs during much of that
time. The stability of the office and the success of our
publishing operations are largely due to his wise and temperate
significant action of the Conference was sparked by staff
member Betty L., through whom officials of the Bureau of
- Indian Affairs in Washington had asked A.A, for help.
When Betty relate the need to the Delegates, they immediately
caught fire and authorized G.S.O. "to coordinate and
pull together all available information about spreading
the A.A. message to the Native American population, including
translation of their languages and dialects and the experience
of A.A. groups in their contact with these populations."
work was authorized on two new audio-visual projects: one
an adaptation of the pamphlet, "It Sure Beats Sitting
in a Cell," directed toward inmates; the other targeting
young people. Another action looked forward to "development
of 'The Twelve Concepts Illustrated.'"
- (See Chap. 12)
of the 50th Anniversary Convention stirred excitement among
the conferees. It was reported that advance registrations
had already nearly reached the budgeted attendance of 28,000,
and it looked as if as many as 50,000 might show up. (See
final chapter, Chap. 22).