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Full house for ADA opening session

Thousands help Association celebrate 153rd meeting

San Francisco—“Good morning, colleagues, and welcome to San Francisco,” said Dr. William R. Calnon, then ADA president, welcoming a capacity crowd to the Opening General Session and Distinguished Speaker Series Oct. 18 at the Moscone Convention Center West.

Image: Kudos: Then ADA President William R. Calnon (above, left) presents Dr. Ron Lamb with the 2012 ADA Humanitarian Award Oct. 18 at the Opening General Session.
Kudos: Then ADA President William R. Calnon (above, left) presents Dr. Ron Lamb with the 2012 ADA Humanitarian Award Oct. 18 at the Opening General Session. Photos by EZ Event Photography

Thousands of ADA members and other session-goers answered an early morning call to help kick off the Association’s 153rd Annual Session, with festivities hosted by Dr. Calnon and featuring distinguished speakers Robert Reich and George F. Will.

The program began with the National Anthem sung by the George Washington High School choir, followed by a rousing musical interlude with San Francisco’s own Beach Blanket Babylon, decked out in colorful costumes and neck-straining headdresses.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Calnon congratulated both the Army and Navy Dental Corps for 100 years of service. He also took the time to thank Annual Session sponsors and exhibitors, including Church & Dwight Inc., which sponsors the Distinguished Speaker Series and the ADA Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research.

The president touched on a range of recent ADA activities and successes that included gaining an exemption from the federal Red Flags Rule, expected to save dental practices $72 million.

Image: Dr. John S. Greenspan accepts the Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research.
Dr. John S. Greenspan accepts the Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research.
He also introduced Dr. Robert Faiella, then ADA president-elect, who hailed the volunteerism of the many member dentists who help keep the Association strong and responsive.

And then it was time for the 2012 ADA Humanitarian Award, presented this year to Dr. Ron Lamb, founder of World Dental Relief, an international charitable dental organization.

Dr. Lamb told the audience he was “stunned and surprised” when he learned that he was to receive the award. He said he was accepting it on behalf of all the thousands of dentists who serve others in need.

The 2012 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research was presented Oct. 18 to Dr. John S. Greenspan for his groundbreaking research on the oral aspects of AIDS/HIV. 

Dr. Greenspan said he was “deeply grateful to the ADA and Church & Dwight,” which sponsors the award. The company produces the Arm & Hammer, Spinbrush and Orajel brands of oral care products.

In his opening statement, Robert Reich offered this quip about his own stature (he’s 4 feet  11 inches tall): “As you can see,” he told the audience, “the economy has worn me down.”

Image:  Annual Session-goers pack the Moscone Center Oct. 18 to kick off the ADA’s 153rd Annual Session.
Full house: Annual Session-goers pack the Moscone Center Oct. 18 to kick off the ADA’s 153rd Annual Session. They were treated to a potpourri of special events, including political discussions, musical entertainment and the opportunity to speak and network with their colleagues. Some 35,000 (unaudited) were in attendance at Annual Session. The Army and Navy both celebrated 100 years of service at session.

A professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, Mr. Reich has served three U.S. administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under Bill Clinton.

Professor Reich lamented what he sees as a lack of civility in political discourse today. He said he could remember a time when the country was divided on a host of serious issues—the Vietnam War, civil rights, the communist “witch hunts” of the 1950s.

Despite such differences, he said, “at least we talked to one another.”

He said the country can only solve its problems through consensus, with Congress and the president working together.

“I don’t know anybody who wants big government for the sake of big government,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who wants more taxes for the sake of more taxes. I think everybody, regardless of their political persuasion, wants to have the smallest government we possibly can.”

Image: Paul Siracusa, Dr. Robert Faiella, George Will, Robert Reich, Dr. William Calnon
Chatting with leadership: From left, Paul Siracusa, executive vice president, global research and development, for Church & Dwight Inc.; then ADA President-elect Robert Faiella; George Will; Robert Reich; and then ADA President William Calnon address questions that were submitted in advance from the Opening Session audience.
He noted that health care costs are 18 percent of the gross domestic product and 25 percent of federal government expenditures. To reduce those costs, he said, the system must place greater emphasis on prevention—an approach to health care that dentistry has fostered for decades.

Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist and political commentator George F. Will noted that on the eve of the First World War, the richest man in America, John D. Rockefeller, could have written a personal check to cover the entire national debt.

“Today,” he said, “the richest man in America, Bill Gates, could write a personal check for his entire net worth and not pay two months interest on the national debt.”

Image: The award-winning George Washington High School Choir sings the National Anthem
Patriotic salute: The award-winning George Washington High School Choir sings the National Anthem during opening ceremonies, on stage and in the lobby of Moscone West before the program began.

Because of spiraling debt, he said, the country is becoming a welfare state. “In order to pay the bills of the welfare state,” he said, “we find enormous pressure to increase taxes,” which further suppresses the economy.

He said the nation is in the midst of “the most predictable crisis” in American history.

He noted, “Every day, 10,000 more baby boomers become eligible for Social Security,” a system introduced in 1935 and clearly “not built” for today’s challenges.

By 2030, when all the baby boomers have retired, he said, the average age of Americans coast to coast will be higher than it is today in the state of Florida.

Earlier, Mr. Reich had declared that part of the country’s problem was a lack of consensus. On the contrary, Mr. Will said, the country “has come to a clear—and clearly untenable—consensus” in its demand for government services that it can’t afford.

The two men then took questions submitted in advance from the audience and found themselves agreeing from time to time, depending on the topic.

“George,” Mr. Reich said at one point, “you and I are agreeing on too much. I’m getting concerned.”