Dr. Fauci is blessed with a first-class temperament crowning his other achievements. This, despite his own admission of being a perfectionist. Some years ago at the height of the AIDS controversy, I listened to him delivering a lecture. In the Q&A, one person after the other lashed out at him. Quick to size up, deliberate to respond, this preppy-looking physician answered calmly and without condescension. His style: cool. Later he observed that the audience was lashing out at everyone and not at him in particular. He had walked with them in their pain. He absorbed their pain.
Wasn’t this Christ’s way? And what of St. Luke, the physician, whose gospel is permeated with compassion for the most vulnerable?
A First-Class Temperament
Who has a first-class temperament, and what is it? In politics, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Ronald Reagan, and Nelson Mandela are said to head that short list. How does one realize a first-class temperament, particularly in dealing with others? First, value silence, reflection, academics, and good reading to build the basic principles that will guide your life. Second, in encountering the other, listen well. Be open. This individual may have something worthwhile to share with you. Third, as you listen, don’t calculate or formulate a pre-conceived response or reaction. Avoid gamesmanship. Fourth, respond as honestly as you can—without rancor, even if the other individual irritates you. Nothing repels more than a nasty disposition which engages in ridicule, sarcasm, and barbed attacks. Fifth, if you have greater knowledge of a discipline, be modest when sharing it; after all, it’s a gift. Finally, if you’re a perfectionist, be aware that you probably don’t suffer fools very well.
Contributing Factors to a Winning Temperament: Family
Family is the basic building block of temperament. Family shapes how one is raised. By definition, Italian families are closely-knit communities. Fathers may be demanding figures, even domineering ones, but we Italians know that mother is the mother who rules the roost!
In Sicilian, the word fauci means sickle, a short-handled farming tool with a semi-circular blade used to cut grain for harvesting, and to lop or trim where necessary. Doctor Fauci is well named.
Education in the Humanities
The right kind of education builds character. In Anthony Fauci’s education, reading and studying Greek and Roman culture, philosophy, literature and other humanities have been the best preparation for his service in medicine. Why is this? In the classics, one learns vicariously what it means to be a human person. The humanities are associated with depth, richness, character and moral development; they deal with thoughts, emotions, actions, and accountability. Philosophy debates the most important issues before humankind and is always consciously related to ethical and religious values. The humanities are not for the elite but for everyone. This is why more and more charter schools are reading, studying, and performing classic masterworks.
In an interview with NPR in 2005, Dr. Fauci revealed his overall goal of choosing a life of public service; it encompassed a few non-negotiable basics. “My job is a gift which allows me to try and help alleviate the suffering of humankind.” As steps leading up to this purpose, he continues, “First, I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge—something I learned with a bit of tough love from my Jesuit education first at Regis High School and then at Holy Cross College. I consider myself a perpetual student. Second, I believe in striving for excellence. I sweat the big and the small stuff! I do not apologize for this. Third, as a physician, my goal is to serve mankind.” Dr. Fauci’s devotion to his mission of helping others deserves as much respect as for his grasp of learning. Perhaps, even more so.
Needed: More Winning Temperaments
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‘The Church grows through the beauty of its members and not by proselytizing.’ If what our Pontiffs say is true, and it is, then Dr. Fauci’s inspiration cannot be measured. In fact, the beauty of such a life is the surest and most persuasive occasion to form disciples of the Lord and build a better world. God’s love shines out from those who, of themselves, are unaware of God’s limitless power working in their lives for good. So it is with Anthony Fauci, a man for others, a universal treasure.