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A Spiritual Celebration

What’s so inspiring about Founders’ Day? For one thing, without it I would not be here talking to you.

Guideposts Editor-in-Chief Edward Grinnan

I am posting this blog a little earlier than usual because I am about to hop on a plane for Akron, Ohio, to celebrate Founders’ Day.

What’s so inspiring about Founders’ Day? For one thing, without it I would not be here talking to you. I wouldn’t be anywhere, in fact.

Founders’ Day celebrates the very first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, when a beleaguered and road-weary businessman, William Wilson, newly sober but sorely tempted, picked up the phone instead of a drink in the lobby of his hotel in Akron and called a local minister at random, demanding to talk to another alcoholic as soon as possible. The minister told Bill Wilson that he knew someone who was a good man but a hopeless drunk, Dr. Robert H. Smith.

A wealthy widow named Henrietta Seiberling offered the use of the Gate Lodge on her Stan Hywet Estate for the propitious meeting. The two men talked alone for hours. Bill talked because talking was keeping him sober a minute at a time. Dr. Bob talked because hearing another alcoholic share his story of suffering and recovery, of experience, strength and hope, brought the message of sobriety alive. He had had his last drink. And both men felt the grace of a higher power—whom they understood as God—infusing the Gate Lodge that June day in 1935, the founding of A.A.

Some 77 years later A.A. has brought the miracle of sobriety to millions of men and women, each of those miracles a story of hopelessness and powerlessness yielding to the grace of that higher power.

Every year thousands of grateful, sober drunks flock to Akron on Founders’ Day to pay homage to the site of what would become their redemption, a kind of sacred triangulation between Bill’s hotel, Dr. Bob’s house and the Gate Lodge at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. I’m incredibly honored and, frankly, amazed to be one of the speakers this year thanks to the work of great friends of Guideposts and the Stan Hywet Gate Lodge, Akronites Ron and Lily Glosser.

On Saturday at 1 pm, I’ll be at the Gate Lodge signing copies and reading and from my book, The Promise of Hope, about my own struggle with drugs and drink and the improbable path that brought me to Guideposts. Stop by, I’d love to meet you.

Many people don’t know that Bill Wilson and Norman Vincent Peale, the founder of Guideposts and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, were great friends. It’s a natural spiritual alliance, though, once you think about it. Check out Bill W.’s landmark article from a 1947 issue of Guideposts, “Is A.A. for Alcoholics Only?”

Hope to see you in Akron.

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