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RI EDUCATION

Dr. Anthony Fauci urges RWU graduates to ‘reject the politicization of science’

“It is our collective responsibility to not tacitly accept the normalization of untruth,” the president’s chief medical adviser said during a commencement address Friday

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, delivered a virtual commencement address to Roger Williams University graduates.Courtesy of Roger Williams University

BRISTOL, R.I. – Dr. Anthony S. Fauci on Friday urged Roger Williams University graduates to stand up for the truth, warning that lies, conspiracy theories, and the politicization of science can lead to a society where “veracity becomes subservient to propaganda.”

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Biden, could not attend the commencement ceremony in person because of a memorial service for a family member. But he addressed RWU’s 1,330 graduates remotely, saying that during the COVID-19 pandemic he experienced “a deepened divisiveness” in the nation.

“Unfortunately, differences of opinion or ideology are sometimes propped up by deliberate distortions of reality to the point of fabrications, conspiracy theories, and outright lies,” Fauci said. “Segments of our society have grown increasingly inured to such falsehoods, yet the outrage and dissent against this alarming trend has been relatively muted and mild.”

So he urged graduates to stand up for the truth.

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“Please remember this: It is our collective responsibility to not tacitly accept the normalization of untruth,” Fauci said. “Because if we do, we invite danger to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country. This is how a society declines into a way of life where veracity becomes subservient to propaganda.”

He told graduates to use the analytic skills they honed in college.

“Challenge weak assertions and renounce pronouncements built on untruths,” Fauci said. “Reject the politicization of science that denigrates evidence and facts. Our country will not prosper if we let indifference to these transgressions enable moral ambiguity.”

Fauci also talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic made the nation’s health inequities “painfully obvious.”

“Longstanding disparities have been exposed that undermine the physical and emotional health of racial and ethnic minorities, particularly African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives,” he said. “Individuals who work in jobs considered essential, including many people in these minority groups, are at increased risks of COVID-19 simply because their work does not allow them to socially isolate.”

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Those disparities stem from social determinants of health such as housing instability, lack of access to health care, and “tragically the restrictions and pressure experienced because of the undeniable racism that still persists in our society,” Fauci said.

He urged graduates to join in addressing the root causes of health disparities.

“If ever the time is right to undertake the enormous challenge, it is now,” Fauci said. “And I am certain that Roger Williams would have agreed.”

Rachael S. Rollins, the first Black woman to serve as US Attorney for Massachusetts, delivered the commencement address for the RWU School of Law.

“Ours is a noble profession,” Rollins told graduates. “At every single critical moment in our country’s history, lawyers have been at the forefront and on the front lines changing laws, sparking conversations, and starting movements, striving to always make our great nation even better and more inclusive.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.