Fauci says 1 piece of career advice has propelled him through the last 37 years, and he whispers it to himself every time he enters the White House

Advertisement
Fauci says 1 piece of career advice has propelled him through the last 37 years, and he whispers it to himself every time he enters the White House
Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a White House press briefing the day after President Biden took office, on January 21, 2021.Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has let one piece of advice guide him through advising 7 US presidents.
  • "Don't be afraid to tell somebody something that they may not want to hear," he said, summing it up.
  • "To this day," Fauci said, "I still tell myself that."

Dr. Anthony Fauci says he received "the best advice" of his career nearly 37 years ago, and it's career wisdom he still follows to this day.

Shortly after Fauci became director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, he was asked down to the White House to brief then-President Ronald Reagan about the HIV crisis.

Before he went, Fauci says he asked a good friend, someone 17 years his senior who had worked in the Nixon-era White House, for his best tips about how to approach the situation.

Advertisement

"Do you got any advice for me, as I go down there to brief the president?" Fauci remembered asking back then, during his first ever appearance on the audio app Clubhouse on Tuesday with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

His mentor had just one piece of clear, bold advice:

"One of the things you've gotta do, is every time you open up the door to the West Wing to go into the White House, tell yourself that you've got to be comfortable with the fact that this may be the last time you're going to open the door and walk into the White House," Fauci remembers his friend telling him.

Advertisement

The mantra is one that Fauci says he still whispers to himself whenever he goes to the White House, and he explained why he believes it's sage career advice for everyone.

Don't be afraid to tell somebody something that they may not want to hear

Fauci says 1 piece of career advice has propelled him through the last 37 years, and he whispers it to himself every time he enters the White House
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, and National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci listen as President Donald J. Trump speaks with the coronavirus task force during a briefing in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Washington, D.C.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The strategy behind the advice is simple.

"If you go in there wanting very much to be asked back, you may wind up telling the President - or some of the President's people - something that's not really the truth, but something that you think they might want to hear just so that you don't offend them," Fauci said.

Advertisement

In essence, the advice can be boiled down to one clear line.

"It was just: go with the truth, go with the evidence, and don't be afraid to tell somebody something that they may not want to hear," he said.

'Rather than shooting the messenger, they listened to what I said'

Fauci says 1 piece of career advice has propelled him through the last 37 years, and he whispers it to himself every time he enters the White House
NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci sits in his office in Bethesda, Maryland in 1988.Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images

The strategy is one that has served Fauci well through the years, until very recently, during some of the darkest, deadliest days of the pandemic in the US.

Advertisement

President Trump didn't always want to hear the truth about the state of the COVID-19 crisis, as Fauci told the New York Times in January.

"There were a couple of times where I would make a statement that was a pessimistic viewpoint about what direction we were going, and the president would call me up and say 'Hey, why aren't you more positive?' Fauci said. "'You've got to take a positive attitude. Why are you so negativistic? Be more positive.'"

Fauci refused to lighten his tone to appease the president, with his mentor's sage advice still ringing in his ears.

Advertisement

"To this day, you know, for the 500th time that I'm going to walk into the White House, I still tell myself that," Fauci said. "I whisper it to myself. 'You know, you're walking in here, this may be the last time you're going to walk into this place.'"

'They even respected me more for telling them an inconvenient truth'

Fauci says 1 piece of career advice has propelled him through the last 37 years, and he whispers it to himself every time he enters the White House
US President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 19, 2008 to Anthony Fauci during ceremonies at the White House in Washington, DC.Karen Bleier/Getty

Fauci says that cultivating such an "a-political," no-pussyfooting-around frame of mind is the very reason "why I could get along fabulously well with George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and get along equally as well with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama."

"Fortunately for me, most of the time - with some obvious exception - when I did in fact tell a president something that maybe was a bit uncomfortable - to their great credit - rather than shooting the messenger, they listened to what I said," Fauci concluded. "They even respected me more for telling them an inconvenient truth, and they asked me back."

Advertisement
{{}}