Nation’s top infectious disease expert draws on his Jesuit education.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, delivered remarks by video to graduates of the 60 Jesuit high schools in the United States. He appears on screen seated at a desk. This week, he was in a voluntary “modified quarantine” due to coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, he testified before a Senate committee via video-link.
His two-and-a-half minute talk to grads echoed some of the themes of an address he gave in the spring of 2019 at his alma mater, the Jesuit-run Regis High School in New York City. That talk attracted little attention at the time outside the circle of alumni of the prestigious school. But one question he answered, about what worried him most, seemed prescient to those who began to share the video on social media in the wake of an outbreak in New York of COVID-19. A pandemic of a respiratory disease was on few people’s radars at that time, but it’s what worried Fauci the most.
Following the popularity of that video, Regis’ president, Jesuit Fr. Daniel Lahart, asked him if he would record another one for the school’s graduation. Then, after another Jesuit high school also asked for such a video greeting, Lahart suggested that Fauci make a second video that could be shown at any of the 60 Jesuit schools.
Some of them posted the video on their websites.
“Please, hang in there,” he told grads, acknowledging the disappointment many must be feeling about not having regular graduation ceremonies. “We need you to be smart, strong and resilient. With discipline and empathy, we will all get through this together.”
Fauci, who graduated from Regis in 1958, went on to study at another Jesuit school, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then Weill Cornell Medicine (then Cornell University Medical College).
He told grads in mid-May that Regis was where he “became immersed in the intellectual rigor of a Jesuit education” and where he picked up key tenets of the Jesuit tradition that have sustained him throughout his life and career. “Two of these — precision of thought and economy of expression — inform how I think, how I write and how I communicate with the public every day.”
The 79-year-old physician, who has served six presidential administrations beginning with that of Ronald Reagan, has become very much a public face in the fight against the pandemic he feared.
Just as important as precision of thought and economy of expression, he added, “is the Jesuit emphasis on social justice and service to others.”
Fauci concluded: “And now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly about one another.”
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