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VOL. 45 | NO. 20 | Friday, May 14, 2021

Fauci urges Vanderbilt graduates to serve their country

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Vanderbilt University graduates on Friday to get involved in public service and to help heal the country's destructive political divisiveness.

Speaking virtually for the school's annual Graduation Day address, the immunologist leading the U.S. pandemic response recalled at times coming into conflict with President Donald Trump while trying to persuade the country to follow public health guidelines.

Fauci had expected the country to pull together to fight the "common enemy" of COVID-19, similar to the way the country pulled together after 9/11. Instead, the intense divisions turned basic safety precautions like wearing a mask into a political statement, he said.

The fact that people will believe that the nearly 600,000 Americans who have died from the disease is a hoax "frightens me," he said.

"Please do not allow differences of opinion to lead to outright hostility," he told the students. "We will not fare well as a nation if we do not pull together for the common good."

Fauci said the pandemic has also shined a bright light on the health disparities in our country, especially racial disparities that are the consequences of inequality. It will take decades to reverse those disparities, he said. Fauci urged the graduates not to look away from the pockets of our society devastated by poverty, drug abuse, violence, racism and despair.

"Public service does not necessarily mean a profession or an avocation devoted entirely to public service," he said. "One can incorporate public service into your lives regardless of your career choice."

Fauci commended the students for their perseverance through the pandemic and told them "it will end, and we will come out of this stronger."

Also on Friday, Fauci received the school's Nichols-Chancellor's Medal, which is given to "those persons who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit," according to the school.

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