May 16, 2005(TORONTO, ON) From two men meeting in 1935 to over two million members estimated worldwide today, Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) celebrates 70 years of one alcoholic talking to another as over 40,000 A.A. members from around the world gather in Toronto this summer for the 2005 International Convention, June 30 - July 3, 2005.
For the first time in the history of A.A.'s quinquennial anniversary celebration of the Fellowship, members from the People's Republic of China and Cuba will be participating in the opening flag ceremonies. In addition, over 75 other countries will be represented at the four day event, including the United States, Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Spain, to name a few.
Traditionally, A.A. holds an International Convention every five years, beginning with the first one in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950, through the 11th one in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2000. The site of the Convention is either in the United States or in Canada. Toronto has hosted the Convention once before. The theme of this year's International Convention - I Am Responsible - comes from the Responsibility Declaration first introduced to the Fellowship of A.A. in July 1965 to a crowd of 10,000 gathered at the 30th Anniversary Convention in Toronto.
International Conventions today are primarily occasions for celebration of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous and seeing the wide-spread results of carrying the message one alcoholic to another. However, the early ones marked events of great significance in A.A. history. At the 15th Anniversary in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950, the A.A. Fellowship adopted its Twelve Traditions and heard one if its co-founders, Dr. Bob, speak for the last time in public. Five years later, in St. Louis, Missouri, the future of A.A. was turned over to the Fellowship through the service structure and A.A.'s annual General Service Conference.
Three big meetings are scheduled where A.A. members are expected to fill the Rogers Centre. On Friday night, July 1, attendees gather for the opening meeting which features the flag ceremony, during which members chosen by lot from each participating country carry their national flags past a cheering crowd. In San Diego in 1995, attendance at this opening meeting was estimated at 54,000, giving it claim to the biggest A.A. meeting ever.
Saturday night convention-goers can attend the Saturday Old-timers Meeting, featuring members with 40 years or more of sober living. Sunday morning, July 3, they will gather once more in the Rogers Centre for the Closing Meeting where they will say farewell until they meet again in 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. These meetings will be simultaneously translated into other languages including French, Spanish and American Sign Language.
Over the course of the weekend, dozens of other smaller meetings will be held, some in a variety of languages including French, German, Italian, Farsi, Japanese and Korean. Al-Anon Family Groups, a fellowship for friends and relatives of alcoholics, and Alateen have scheduled a variety of daytime activities, including meetings and workshops. Regardless of language or venue, much will be heard over the weekend about holding out the hand of A.A. - from one drunk to another.
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