Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, key member of the White House's coronavirus task force and Brad Pitt look-alike — well, kind of — mobilized his newfound celebrity for a pair of surprise graduation messages this week. Fauci addressed both Johns Hopkins University and his own alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross.
"I am profoundly aware that graduating during this time and in this virtual way — unable to celebrate in person this important milestone in your lives with your friends, classmates and teachers — is extremely difficult. I deeply empathize with the situation in which you find yourselves," said the former classics major, in his message to Holy Cross students on Friday.
"However, I encourage you to stay strong and unflinching. The country and the world need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character."
Just one day earlier, Fauci dropped in for a remote address to Johns Hopkins.
"All of you, directly or indirectly," he told students, "will be doing your part together with the rest of us to come out from under the shadow of this pandemic."
A few months ago, the 79-year-old immunologist may have made for an unlikely celebrity guest at college commencement ceremonies. But Fauci's prominent role at President Trump's frequent coronavirus briefings has turned him into one of the most recognizable doctors in the country — the subject of tribute songs, posters and even his own fan club.
In his comments to new graduates at both schools, he emphasized that the global pandemic presents not only dangers but also opportunities to use the education and "moral mentorship" they had worked so hard to obtain in the classroom.
"Now is the time, if ever there was one," he told Holy Cross, "for us to care selflessly about one another."