Rockefeller Dinner 1940 & Newspaper reports
184 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS COMES OF AGE Nelson Rockefeller. Directly in front of me was Wendell Willkie. The dinner was squab on toast. For a bunch of ex-drunks, we were doing remarkably well. We wondered how Mr. Rockefeller had dared to go so far out on a limb for an obscure and struggling fellowship of alcoholics. After dinner Mr. Nelson Rockefeller rose to his feet. He expressed his father’s regret for being unable to attend. He told how deeply Mr. John D., Jr., had been affected by his experience with this society of Alcoholics Anonymous. Promising a highly interesting evening, Nelson Rockefeller began to introduce the speakers. Dr. Fosdick gave us a most wonderful testimonial and expressed complete confidence in our future. Dr. Kennedy warmly endorsed us and read a letter of protest he had written to the Journal of the American Medical Association because in their review of the book Alcoholics Anonymous they had somewhat ridiculed us. Dr. Bob spoke briefly, and I gave a rapid account of my own experience as a drinker, my recovery, and the subsequent history of our fellowship. As we watched the faces of the guests, it was evident that we had captured their sympathetic interest. Great influence and great wealth were soon to be at our disposal. Weariness and worry were to be things of the past. Finally the big moment came. Mr. Nelson Rockefeller, visibly moved, got to his feet once more. On behalf of his father he thanked us all for coming. He reiterated that few more affecting things than Alcoholics Anonymous had ever crossed his father’s life. His father would be delighted, Nelson said, to know how many guests had availed themselves of the chance to see the beginnings of this most promising adventure of Alcoholics Anonymous. Breathlessly we waited for the climax – the matter of money. Nelson Rockefeller obliged us. Continuing, he said, “Gentlemen, you can all see that this is a work of good will. Its power lies in the fact that one member carries the good message to the next, without any thought of financial income or reward. Therefore, it is our belief that Alcoholics Anonymous should be self-supporting so far as money is concerned. It needs only our good will.” Whereupon the guests clapped lustily, and after cordial handshakes and good-bys all around, the whole billion dollars’ worth of them walked out the door. We were dazed. Why had Mr. Rockefeller gone to all that trouble-just for this? We simply could not figure it out. But a few days later we began to see, and as time passes Alcoholics Anonymous sees ever more clearly what he meant and what he did. Dick Richardson had transcripts of all the talks that had been made at the dinner, and he asked me to condense and edit them. This really meant editing Dr. Bob and me, for who would edit Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick and Dr. Foster Kennedy? Dick said that Mr. Rockefeller wanted to buy 400 books, and we let him have them at a whopping discount, too: one dollar each. He wanted to send one to every guest on the dinner list, along with a pamphlet containing the talks given at the dinner.