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Opening session, Dr. Rice draw full house in Las Vegas

Dr. Lowney receives Humanitarian Award

Since leaving office in 2009 after four years as U.S. secretary of state under President George W. Bush, the pace of life has slowed a bit for Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D.

IMAGE: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Distinguished: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses a packed Mandalay Bay Ballroom Monday.

“Now I get up in the morning and pour a cup of coffee,” she said. “Then I read the newspaper and I think, ‘Isn’t that interesting?’”

The days of rushing off to an Oval Office briefing or boarding a predawn flight to the Middle East are behind her now, though she till keeps a watchful eye on world events. One thing is certain, she said: “Today’s headlines and history’s judgments are rarely the same.”

To make her point, Dr. Rice (she holds a doctorate in political science), cited the example of William H. Seward, secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Seward famously negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million or about 2 cents an acre for an area roughly twice the size of Texas.

Rapt audience: The crowd Monday listens to Dr. Rice’s analysis of world events.

Headline writers of the day branded the purchase “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox.” A century and a half later, we know what a bargain Alaska was and what a treasure it is.

Dr. Rice, now a member of the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, was the headliner for Monday’s Opening General Session and Distinguished Speaker Series, which packed the house at the Mandalay Bay Ballroom in Las Vegas.

Dr. Raymond Gist, ADA president, hosted the opening session, with an appearance by Dr. William Calnon, president-elect, who touched on the issue of barriers to dental care.

“Dentistry,” he said, “can and must provide the leadership that places first-class treatment at the forefront for all Americans.”

Dr. Gist hailed the work of the 8,000-member Pierre Fauchard Academy, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.

The president then introduced Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, founder of the Haitian Health Foundation and recipient of the 2011 ADA Humanitarian Award.

“The best gift that we can give to the poor is hope,” observed Dr. Gist. “That is exactly what Dr. Lowney has done.”

Dr. Lowney described levels of dental disease in Haiti that are “beyond our imaginations” and urged all who have the means to “share your blessings with the needy and the broken in the world.”

Dr. Rice identified what she saw as “three major shocks” that have profoundly changed the world in recent years.

The first of these, she said, were the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “When the plane hit the Pentagon,” she recalled, “at that point, you knew nothing was going to be the same again.”

The other two shocks she described: the financial crisis of 2008 and the collapse of what she dubbed “authoritarianism” in Egypt and elsewhere in the world. “Even authoritarians know that ultimately authoritarianism doesn’t work,” said Dr. Rice.

While China, for example, may be rising economically, it remains a repressive society that lacks a “confident leadership” and will not surpass the United States, she predicted.

The former secretary of state said America’s future is to be found in the private sector and in the unflagging industry of immigrants.

“Most immigrants are people who come here with can-do attitudes,” she said, and later asked, “When did immigrants become the enemy?”

In a Q&A that followed her presentation—questions submitted in writing by ADA members—Dr. Rice was asked about student indebtedness and the high cost of education. She suggested, among other remedies, an accelerated learning cycle that offers a degree in just three years, not four.

She also was asked about the curious news that deposed Libyan strongman Moamar Gadhafi kept a private scrapbook on Dr. Rice.

“But when he got ready to run,” she noted, “apparently it didn’t mean that much to him because he left it behind.”