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Dr. Anthony Fauci delivers keynote address at 2022 Class Day

<h5>Dr. Fauci poses with Class Day co-Chairs, from left, Sarah Lee, Julia Chaffers and Christian Potter after his induction as an honorary member of the class.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of Princeton University</h6>
Dr. Fauci poses with Class Day co-Chairs, from left, Sarah Lee, Julia Chaffers and Christian Potter after his induction as an honorary member of the class.
Courtesy of Princeton University

The annual Class Day event, headlined by keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Fauci, celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2022 on Monday, May 23. 

One of several end-of-year events over the past weekend and this week for the graduating class, Class Day saw a crowd of students, guests, and alumni gathered behind Nassau Hall as several speakers delivered remarks and students received awards.

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Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, gave the final address. His remarks centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation’s response.

He began his address by telling the class to “expect the unexpected,” using his experience in investigative medicine at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic as an example.

“I am still not sure what drove me to do this,” he said, “but I decided right then and there to make an abrupt turn in the direction of my career, abandon my other research pursuits, and investigate the pathogenesis of this mysterious disease.”

“Expect the unexpected and stay heads up for an unanticipated opportunity, should it present itself,” he continued. “It can be rewarding, exciting, and potentially career- and life-altering.”

Fauci also talked about “the failings in our society” and the health inequities highlighted by the pandemic, attributing the lack of health equity to “the undeniable racism that persists in our society.” The crowd responded with a large cheer.

“Together we must find the strength, wisdom, ingenuity, and empathy to address these entrenched elements of injustice, manifested in so many subtle and over ways and work with all our might to remedy the cultural disease of racism, just as we fight the viral disease of COVID-19,“ he said.

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Fauci then spoke directly to the graduating students about their paths beyond Princeton.

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

Fauci added that the graduates ought to work to help with those issues and engage in public service. 

“Public service,” he clarified, “does not necessarily mean a profession or a vocation devoted entirely to public service. One can incorporate public service into your lives regardless of your career choice.”

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One way a student can do that, no matter their job, is in leadership, he said, which “can take many forms, including the quiet and subtle leadership of example.”

He then commented on divisions in modern America and the increasingly normalized manipulation of facts, encouraging students to challenge such norms.

“Sadly, elements of our society have grown increasingly inured to a cacophony of falsehoods and lies that often stand largely unchallenged, ominously leading to an insidious acceptance of what I call the ‘normalization of untruths,’” he said.

He asked the students to work against this trend, to not “shrug our shoulders and sink to a tacit acceptance of the normalization of untruths.”

“This is how a society deteriorates into a way of life where veracity becomes subservient to propaganda rather than being upheld as our guiding principle,” he continued. “Apply your abilities to critically analyze and examine.”

“We are counting on you for that,” he concluded.

Prior to Fauci’s speech, several other students gave remarks. 

After the 10 a.m. bell tolled from Nassau Hall, the seniors processed onto Cannon Green to Taylor Swift’s “22 (Taylor’s Version)” and “Princeton University Washington Walk Sign TRAP REMIX” by R I T Z. Class Day Chairs Christian Potter ’22, Sarah Lee ’22, and Julia Chaffers ’22 then opened proceedings with a welcome address. 

They thanked the staff for working “to set up this entire celebratory weekend, and everyday to make Princeton such a beautiful and safe place to live and learn.”

“Class Day is a meaningful and humorous celebration of the imprint that Princeton has left on us and the imprint that we have left on it,” Potter said.

University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 spoke — with a bit of “Reunions hoarseness” in his voice, in his words — and gave a history of Class Day.

“Class Day is a venerable tradition on this campus. It has been celebrated at least since before the Civil War,” he said. 

He also lauded the class’s perseverance in the pandemic.

“Your class has proven itself capable of great things by maintaining high levels of achievement during one of the most difficult periods that our university, our nation, and our world have ever faced,” he said.

Following his address, according to tradition, Eisgruber gave a ceremonial key to the University to the alumni officers of the graduating class — Debby Park ’22, Courtney Cappelli ’22, Mariah Crawford ’22, and Mansi Totwani ’22.

Class Heralds Maddie Winter ’22 and Owen Matthews ’22 also delivered comedic speeches during the event, to big laughs from the audience. 

“If this school has $37.7 billion,” Winter asked, “why does the toilet paper feel like sandpaper?”

“In just 10 minutes, we will hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was the CDC director during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic!” quipped Matthews, eliciting applause.

Class President Santiago Guiran ’22 delivered a joke-laden speech as well, riffing on the number 22: “22 percent is what I got on my math final last week … and I still passed!”

Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne presented awards to several students at the event for their achievements.

Mayowa Oke ’22 won the Allen Macy Dulles ’51 Award. Gabriella Carter ’22 won the Frederick Douglass Service Award. Ashwin Mahadevan ’22 won the Harold Willis Dodds Achievement Prize. Totwani won the W. Sanderson Detwiler 1903 Prize. Naomi Hess ’22 won the Walter E. Hope Class of 1901 Medal. Bethwel Kiplimo ’22 and Grace Simmons ’22 won the Priscilla Glickman ’92 Memorial Prize. Potter and Claire Wayner ’22 were also acknowledged for their reception of the Pyne Prize.

Hess is a contributing copy editor and Associate News Editor Emerita for The Daily Princetonian.

John Mack ’00, the Ford Family Director of Athletics, delivered the two major athletic awards: Kevin O’Toole ’22 won the William Winston Roper Trophy and Kyla Sears ’22 won the C. Otto von Kienbusch Award. Mack also saluted the Tigers’ 16 varsity league championships this year, tied for the most in school history with his graduating year in 2000.

Several people were made honorary members of the Class of 2022: Joshua Brown, manager of Classroom and Event Technology Services; Dr. Ruby P. Huttner, director of Class Grandparent Initiative; Dr. Sonja Francis, lecturer in Chemistry and director of the General Chemistry Teaching Laboratories; and Lexy Parrill Sarstedt, director of Campus Club. Following tradition, Fauci was also made an honorary member of the class.

Gabriel Robare is the Head Puzzles Editor for the ‘Prince,’ as well as a Staff News Writer, among other positions. He can be reached at grobare@princeton.edu or on social @GabrielRobare.

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