Advocacy: Are You a Spectator or Participant?

Dr. Jeffrey Lowenstein

Are you a spectator or a participant?

Dentists may participate in politics in many ways. They can write their Representative or Senator, or work in for a candidate or political party. They can make presentations to their local school board or city council, or call the police to complain about the neighbor’s dog. Partly because of our political system, dentists have many opportunities to participate in our democracy on federal, state, and local levels. Some forms of participation are more common than others and some dentists participate more than others, but almost every dentist has a voice in government.

Who Participates and Why?

The single most important characteristic of a politically active dentist is a high level of education. Generally, the more educated a dentist is on the issues, the more likely he or she is to be an active participant at the statehouse. Why? Perhaps because the well educated dentist understands complex issues better, or maybe they have learned the importance of the legislative impact on the dental profession. Or it could just be that their interests and legislative contacts are more approachable.

One can come up with tons of excuses that keep us from advocating for the dental profession, but the real culprit is usually one’s own resistance, afraid to put ourselves out there, afraid of being wrong, afraid of being ridiculed, afraid of being embarrassed, afraid one will be successful and won’t know how to handle it. When it comes to advocating on behalf of the dental profession, dentists are simply afraid of the risks.

Spectators don’t usually stand out

Spectators are easy to blend into the crowd, to hide, or to “go with the flow”.  Spectators are safe, but what will happen to the productive ideas of these spectator dentists? Great ideas languish. Growth stagnates. The legislature acts to the detriment of the profession. Spectator dentists rarely realize their full potential.

Participants take chances

When a dentist is a participant in the political process, the dentist is a productive, enthusiastic voice for the profession. The participant dentist shares their knowledge and expertise within the dental community and at the statehouse. The participant dentist is known and respected for his or her ideas and acting on them. When one is a participant dentist, one ignores the fear and takes the risk. Sometimes the participant dentist may succeed and other times he or she may fail.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

With a tip of the hat to JFK, “Ask not what your dental society can do for you but what can YOU do for your dental profession as an active legislative advocate.”


Jeffrey Lowenstein, DMD

NESO Legislative Correspondent