It was one of those “this may never happen again” moments. Sitting at the Dental Trade Alliance’s annual meeting at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Farmington, Pa., I was holding in my hands an Olympic gold medal. In an amazing act of kindness, Rulon Gardner, who won the gold medal in heavyweight wrestling at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, had brought his gold medal with him to his DTA speaking engagement. He passed it around with two simple rules - don’t drop it and don’t steal it - and it was now my turn to examine the medal. It was amazing. I thought back to when I watched the medal ceremonies for the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980 (yes, I still believe in miracles) and Dan Jansen after he finally captured his gold medal in 1994. The Olympics have produced some amazing stories, and Gardner’s defeat of Alexander Karelin - who had been undefeated for 13 years and had not given up a point in six years prior to his loss in the gold medal match to Gardner - ranks right up there.
Years of training went into Gardner winning that gold medal - probably more sweat and work than I’ve done in my whole life - yet here I was, holding his gold medal. Of course, Gardner instantly became one of my heroes by performing some wrestling moves on Preventech’s Al King to the delight of the crowd (Al got to experience some of that Gardner sweat up close and personal). Yes, Gardner’s talk was inspiring, funny, and even capped off with a real gold medal. Pretty amazing stuff.
“Amazing” is a good word to describe the entire DTA meeting. It’s always great to be able to sit down and talk with friends in the industry without the buzz of the trade show floor all around, and the DTA meeting is always the perfect place to do that.
Some of the DTA meeting’s personal highlights for me (other than the gold medal) included...
• Talks by Captain James Lovell, Jr. and Gene Kranz, both pioneers in NASA’s manned space programs (pictured in the photo at the top of the next column, Kranz is on the right). Lovell was on board Apollo 13 and Kranz was the flight director for the Apollo missions. Their talk was entitled, “Failure is not an option,” and it wasn’t for these two when the crippled Apollo 13 was trying to return to Earth. It amazed me to hear what happened “behind the scenes” and how these two (and everyone else involved with Apollo 13) were able to bring the spacecraft back to earth.
A few of the memorable quotes from their talk -
“Trust allows you to make split-second decisions.”
“Even in the best-laid plans, there will come a time when a crisis will occur.”
“None of us is ever truly alone. There is always a team with us and behind us.”
• Thinking about my “True North.” Speaker Bill George told the crowd that a person’s “True North” is what the person holds as their deepest-rooted belief and passion. What is your “True North?” That tough question made me think quite a bit during the meeting.
Hats off to the DTA staff and annual meeting planning committee for a great conference. To learn more about the meeting at Nemacolin or next year’s gathering in Carlsbad, Calif., log on to www.dentaltradealliance.org.
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Kevin Henry, Editor