For 40 years, community members in California’s Coachella Valley have heard the stories of people who overcame addiction—people whose personal and family recoveries often began in the anonymity of Twelve Step meeting rooms but who saw the value of shedding public light on a disease hidden for generations behind shame and stigma. The Alcohol Awareness Hour was launched on Nov. 13, 1976, at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and adopted six years later by its new neighbor, the Betty Ford Center, which today still carries on the speaker series’ rich tradition of public education, inspiration and advocacy. Hundreds have now stood on the Awareness Hour stage—including authors, physicians, clergy, educators, business leaders, authors, sports figures, show business personalities and musicians—paving the way for a modern era that is now replete with recovery podcasts, videos and public speakers. An era where, thanks to Ted Talks, the solitary storyteller on stage has become a cultural force. Major League Baseball players Sweet Lou Johnson, Bo Belinsky and all-stars Maury Wills, Don Newcombe and Ryan Duren all spoke at the Awareness Hour. As did Chicago Bear Bob Newton; Congressman Wilbur Mills; comedians Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold; actors Ed Begley, Jr. and Jan Clayton; singers/actors Gary Crosby and Gordon MacRae; songwriter Paul Williams; and the multitalented Walter O’Keefe, among many others. Of course, former First Lady Betty Ford spoke too, along with the doctor who treated her substance use disorder—Dr. Joseph Pursch. So, too, did my professional hero, the author and historian William White, as well as Father Joseph Martin, whose “Chalk Talk on Alcohol” is one of the most celebrated talks ever on addiction. And back in 1981, a year before the Betty Ford Center would open and 33 years before it would merge with the Hazelden Foundation, iconic Hazelden President Dan Anderson visited Eisenhower to deliver presentations on two papers he published, including one that ended with these wise words, reinforcing the case for the Awareness Hour: “Perhaps the greatest problem is still community education. In a very real sense, alcoholism does not exist until the community says it does, and comprehensive treatment programs will not be fully available until public support is fully mobilized.” – Dan Anderson As the Betty Ford Center celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Awareness Hour and prepares for a new season that kicks of Jan. 14, 2017—with a presentation by Betty Ford’s daughter Susan Ford Bales; former Congresswoman Mary Bono; and Jerry Moe, the national director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Children’s Program—it’s worth reflecting on, and documenting for the first time thoroughly, the history and significance of what may be the nation’s longest running and most influential public recovery speaker series. “It's amazing—and it's very touching to me, and I'm very grateful—that it's continued to go on,” said Dr. Joseph Cruse in a recent conversation from his home in Las Vegas. Dr. Cruse, then president of the Eisenhower Medical Center staff, co-founded the Awareness Hour with retired radio legend Del Sharbutt and his wife, singer Meri Bell.