A surprise visitor showed up today to share words of encouragement with the Johns Hopkins Class of 2020: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and arguably the most famous scientist in the nation right now.
Fauci, a leading figure on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, acknowledged that while holding a virtual Commencement ceremony was surely disappointing, the adaptability and resilience JHU's graduates have shown in the past few months are the same qualities needed to face an ongoing global public health crisis.
"We need your talent, your energy, your resolve, and your character to get through this difficult time," he said. "In the next phase of your lives, whatever professional path you choose, all of you directly or indirectly will be doing your part, together with the rest of us, to come out from under the shadow of this pandemic."
A career immunologist who has worked with every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan, Fauci, 79, has guided federal responses to HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and the Zika virus, among other virulent threats. During the COVID-19 crisis, he's become known as "America's doctor"—a de-facto public health spokesperson praised for his frank and apolitical guidance.
This isn't the first time Fauci has participated in a Hopkins Commencement. Five years ago, he received an honorary degree from Johns Hopkins in a ceremony held at Homewood Field. In recorded remarks, he told the Class of 2015 to expect the unexpected.
"You've had excellent training, you're very smart, and you're energetic," Fauci said then. "However, you'll be confronted with changes, and it's how you adapt to those changes that may determine your success."