Adapted from Dr Bob’s Farewell talk at Cleveland Convention 30 July 1950
A.A. membership was approaching a hundred thousand and there were thirty-five hundred groups worldwide at the time of the first AA World Convention in Cleveland 28-30 July 1950. The decision to hold this first international convention was a fine example of how Bill Wilson was always able to stay on top of trends that threatened to divide A.A. His enormous personal popularity was the cement that bound A.A. Dr Bob gave his farewell talk on 30 July 1950 at the event. Listen here
Three thousand people attended the first international convention in Cleveland at the end of July 1950. This was the only international Convention attended by Dr. Bob. His wife, Anne, had died the year before, and Bob was very ill with cancer.
Bill chose Cleveland for several reasons:
1 — It would be possible for Dr. Bob to attend, since it was not far from Akron.
2 — It had one of the largest and earliest concentrations of sober alcoholics.
3 — It was the home turf of Clarence Snyder (the “Home Brewmeister) who had begun claiming that he was the founder of AA. He based this claim on the fact that when the Cleveland members broke away from the Akron group because priests were refusing to allow Catholics to attend Oxford Group meetings, the Cleveland group was the first group that used the name Alcoholics Anonymous.
4 — Convention planning required a lot of cooperation between Cleveland, Akron, and New York, which would help to ameliorate friction between the three groups.
Dr. Bob, whose cancer was painfully advanced, spoke only briefly. The experience exhausted him. He left the convention early and was driven home to Akron. He died within six months, on November 16, 1950.
Dr Bob famously said “Our Twelve Steps, when immersed down to the last, resolve themselves into the words ‘love’ and ‘service.’” More information available here
Dr. Bob said in his farewell talk ‘my good friends in AA and of AA. I feel I would be very remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to welcome you not only to this meeting but those that have already transpired. I hope very much that the presence of so many people and the words that you hear will prove an inspiration to you. In other words, we hope that your visit here will be both enjoyable and profitable’.
I get a big thrill out of feeling that possibly some small thing that I did a number of years ago, played an infinitely small part in making this meeting possible. I also get quite a thrill when I think that we all had the same problem. We all did the same things. We all get the same results in proportion to our zeal and enthusiasm and stick-to-itiveness. If you will pardon the injection of a personal note at this time, let me say that I have been in bed five of the last seven months and my strength hasn’t returned as I would like, so my remarks of necessity will be very brief.
There are two or three things that flashed into my mind on which it would be fitting to lay a little emphasis; one is the simplicity of our Program. Let’s not louse it all up with Freudian complexes and things that are interesting to the scientific mind, but have very little to do with our actual AA work. Our 12 Steps, when simmered down to the last, resolve themselves into the words love and service. We understand what love is and we understand what service is. So let’s bear those two things in mind.
Let us also remember to guard that erring member – the tongue, and if we must use it, let’s use it with kindness and consideration and tolerance.
And one more thing; none of us would be here today if somebody hadn’t taken time to explain things to us, to give us a little pat on the back, to take us to a meeting or two, to have done numerous little kind and thoughtful acts in our behalf. So let us never get the degree of smug complacency so that we’re not willing to extend or attempt to, that help which has been so beneficial to us, to our less fortunate brothers.