ST. LOUIS – Before Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered the commencement address for Washington University’s School of Medicine, he delivered answers to wide-ranging questions from reporters.

Fauci discussed the current state of the COVID crisis.

“Bottom line, short answer is, it’s not over in the sense of totally behind us, but the emergency nature of it certainly is behind us,” he said.

And he shared his advice for med school grads.

“That they should not sit back and accept the normalization of untruths,” he said. “It’s their responsibility to push back on the normalization of untruths.”

The recently retired director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president spoke candidly about the pandemic and what made him public enemy number one in the minds of many Americans.

“When I was in the White House and Trump was saying the virus was going to go away like magic tomorrow, when we knew it wasn’t, I did not take any great pleasure in contradicting the President of the United States,” he said. “I have a profound degree of respect for the office and presidency, but I had to speak up when they were saying Hydroxychloroquine works like magic. Ivermectin works like magic. And this virus is going to disappear tomorrow. I had to say, ‘No, that’s not true.’ But that launched an extraordinary amount of hostility on the part of the far right against me.”

At the root of the vitriol?

“Profound divisiveness, ad hominems, conspiracy theories, and mischaracterizations of the science,” Fauci said. “That is not helpful when you’re dealing with a public health crisis. I don’t demonize the people who demonize me. I always look to see is there something there, some message that they have for me that I could actually learn from.”

Fauci says what worked, what didn’t, and the reasons for those successes and failures will be studied for generations.

“One of the things we learned: continue to make investments in basic and clinical biomedical research to allow us to be scientifically prepared,” he said. “The next bucket of preparedness and response is the public health preparedness and response. And we did not do as well as we should have.”

As for what’s next for the 82-year-old now that he’s retired?

“Teaching and speaking, and writing for the purpose of inspiring the younger generation of people to go into science and perhaps to even consider a career in public service, which I think is a high calling,” he said.

Nearly 40 years after Fauci followed that same calling, his commitment is as undeniable and the controversy that sometimes came with it.