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Dr. Fauci, late Celtics icon Bill Russell, honored at EMK Institute annual dinner

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, speaks after receiving an award during the 2022 Annual Dinner at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston Tuesday evening.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

In one of his last public appearances as President Biden’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci called today’s polarized political climate “antithetical to a successful public health response” during remarks Tuesday at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Dorchester.

“It’s like you’re in a world war, and you’re fighting with each other instead of the enemy,” Fauci said to a crowd gathered at the Institute’s annual dinner

Fauci, along with late Celtics icon Bill Russell, were the 2022 recipients of the Edward M. Kennedy Award for Inspired Leadership, which is presented to individuals who demonstrate exemplary civic engagement and impact. Hundreds of guests packed the institute for the annual event that honors the longtime Massachusetts senator, who died in 2009.

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“You can judge me five or 10 years from now, but I want you to know that I gave everything I had, and I didn’t leave anything off the court,” Fauci said.

In August, Fauci announced his retirement from the federal government after more than 50 years of service. For 38 of those years, he directed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His first years as director were dominated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and his response yielded a complicated relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

But there are also many who praise Dr. Fauci for his willingness to pour resources into a crisis presidents and other officials at the time ignored. Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said Fauci “championed diseases that society and mainstream healthcare shunned.”

“Dr. Fauci’s far bookend, as he calls it, has been HIV and AIDS,” Sudders said.

He’s perhaps most known now as the face of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response, earned him praise and skepticism from both sides of the political aisle. Over the past three years, Sudders said that Fauci answered all of her questions about the novel coronavirus with patience.

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“At a time when there were more questions than answers, Fauci worked hard everyday to make sure Americans were provided with the facts and the science,” Sudders said.

When asked about his future plans, Fauci said he “wants to lecture, continue to write, and give young people” interested in his field whatever guidance he can provide.

Russell, who died in July at age 88, was remembered for his legacy as a champion of social justice.

Former US Representative Joe Kennedy III called Russell a longtime friend of the Kennedy family. He said Russell expressed willingness to hang up his jersey “if it advanced the cause of equality,” whether it was marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. or standing with Black BPS students to integrate schools.

“[Russell] never gave up on Boston, like he didn’t with our country,” Kennedy said.

Former US Representative Joseph Kennedy III spoke of the legacy of the late NBA-legend Bill Russell during the 2022 Annual Dinner at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute Tuesday evening. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

Russell’s granddaughter, Kandysse Conrad, accepted the award on behalf of her family.

Tuesday’s dinner included music performances from Broadway performer Alan Green, Darren R. Cohen, and Greta Feeney.

The late Senator Kennedy’s widow, Ambassador Victoria Reggie Kennedy and his younger son, former US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, spoke during the ceremony.

A large crowd of supporters gathered Tuesday evening for the annual dinner at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Dorchester. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, spoke after receiving the Edward M. Kennedy Award for Inspired Leadership. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe



Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at tiana.woodard@globe.com. Follow her @tianarochon.