‘During that speech, I’m saying something and you have the activists clap. Then I say something and the scientists clap. The beauty of it is that… at the end of it, everybody was clapping.’
K and I recently watched the documentary ‘Fauci’ on Disney+. He was talking about a speech he gave to a group of Act Up activists and scientists during the AIDS epidemic. The similarities between that and the COVID pandemic are striking. So are the differences.
What mattered then, what will always matter, was how Anthony Fauci made the difficult choice to engage with his critics. The ones who disliked him, those who thought he wasn’t working fast enough to find a cure. They were blown away when he came to them. When he asked to hear about their experiences, their ideas. Humble and vulnerable, and holy shit I can’t imagine how unbelievably hard.
As the documentary pieces together his work then and his work now, without giving anything away in case you haven’t seen it, Dr. Fauci talks about the $15 billion for which he advocated to globally fight AIDS. How, when President Bush announced the news to Congress, both Republicans and Democrats crowded in the House chamber applauded. Just like the activists and the scientists, for years at bitter odds.
Through his words and his actions, Dr. Fauci brought people together. He, as the recent Harvard Business Review article about crisis explained, 'reminded people who disagreed with one another that they needn't be perpetual enemies.' That’s leadership.