Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice to Vanderbilt grads: Never stop learning and ‘cultivate joy,’ not just professional accomplishments


On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave advice to Vanderbilt University graduates to never stop learning.

“The scope of you what you have learned here at Vanderbilt, and importantly what you will need to learn after you leave here, is like a giant mosaic,” he said while delivering the “Graduates Day” address. “This mosaic of your knowledge and experience is eternally unfinished, as it should be.”

As a lifelong learner, “the good news is that it’s going to be very difficult to get bored and the level of self-fulfillment is going to be very high,” Fauci said.

“The sobering news is that you will likely develop a sense of low-grade uneasiness and a subliminal feeling of unfinished business.”

But, said 80-year-old Fauci, “it is this feeling that can serve as the catalyst to constantly improve yourself…. After all these years, I still derive energy and motivation from that very subtle tension.”

Fauci also encouraged graduates to seek out things that make them happy, not just successful.

“Allow yourselves to cultivate this joy as much as you do your professional accomplishments,” Fauci said.

“As you might expect, different pursuits and activities provide joy in different ways to different people. Find your source of joy and happiness and embrace it, and let the sound of your laughter be heard.”

At other points in his speech, Fauci, who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease through seven presidents, spoke about the devisiveness of political hostility and the ways in which Covid has laid bare health disparities for people of color.

“It will take a decades-long commitment for society to reverse this trend and I strongly urge you to be part of that commitment,” he said.

“I sincerely believe that, regardless of our career paths, we cannot look the other way from pressing societal issues.”

And for graduates going out into an uncertain and “hurting world,” Fauci gave advice on leadership.

“Leadership is a gradual process that you have already begun,” Fauci said.

“I speak not necessarily of officially designated leadership which some of you may assume in your careers, I speak of the leadership that can take many forms including the quiet and subtle leadership of example,” Fauci said.

Fauci received the university’s prestigious Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal. “Dr. Fauci embodies the collaborative, can-do spirit that we hold dear at Vanderbilt, and we are honored to award him the Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal in this most pivotal year,” Vanderbilt chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in a release.

Vanderbilt’s undergraduate and graduate commencement will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

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