Dr. Fauci, Serena Williams, Alicia Keys

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a household name for his public health work during the COVID-19 pandemic, hasn’t had much time in recent years to reflect on his legacy.

Others, like the National Portrait Gallery, do it for him.

“Legacies will be determined by how others view your performance,” Fauci told USA TODAY. “As a scientist and a doctor, I don’t usually think in terms of me and legacy – it’s more about responsibility and what you do. … But the very fact that some people felt that it was important enough to have a portrait of me…is really, really humble.”

Fauci, who is expected to step down from government office next month, was one of seven honorees on Saturday night at the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait of a Nation gala, recognized by new portraits now hanging in the museum to honor the significant contributions that they brought. to United States history. Rounding out the Class of 2022 are chef José Andrés, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, activist Marian Wright Edelman, music director Clive Davis and tennis icons Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

Previously:James Corden Dons Anna Wintour Bob, Stunning Michelle Obama Pays Tribute to Lin-Manuel Miranda at 2019 National Portrait Gallery Gala

Also in attendance were Hillary Clinton (presenting for Edelman, who joined Clinton on stage and had her granddaughters speak on her behalf) and author Isabel Wilkerson (presenting for DuVernay). Writer and TV host Baratunde Thurston hosted the evening, while director Ron Howard, singer Jewel and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos were spotted in the audience.

Each winner this year was chosen for their efforts to make the past three years “easier or more community-focused,” said gallery director Kim Sajet.

Andrés, a restaurateur and humanitarian who has taken his World Central Kitchen to places around the world in need of help, most recently in Ukraine, gave an impassioned speech about the power of food to heal communities.

“Build longer tables, not high walls,” he said.

At their core, Portrait of a Nation galas and exhibits are a way to reassess who deserves to be remembered and to ensure that a museum depicting portraits of influential Americans throughout history accurately represents the whole of America.

“I was so impressed,” Venus Williams said on stage as she walked through the museum and saw her likeness alongside other prominent American figures. “When you see the portraits, you realize that the story matters and what you do matters.”

Venus Williams addresses the crowd at the Portrait of a Nation Gala in Washington.

Alicia Keys celebrates Clive Davis as an amplifier for iconic voices

Davis, a lifelong music producer, has helped introduce countless iconic musicians to the world: Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Notorious BIG, Janis Joplin and Alicia Keys, among many others. One of those musicians returned the favor on Saturday night.

“I’m especially grateful to be here with one of the most important men in my life,” Keys began as he introduced Davis onstage. “When I first met Clive I was really looking for myself. I was looking for someone who would understand a young brunette girl from Harlem with Timbs who liked Nina Simone and Wu-Tang who had cornrows and played classical piano Nobody got me…. He saw in me what I didn’t see in myself and what I love most about him is that he knew he didn’t have to make me. He knew all he had to do was support me and allow me to lead.”

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Alicia Keys introduces Clive Davis at the gala.

Speaking to USA TODAY ahead of the ceremony, Davis, 90, reflected on his storied career and looked forward to celebrating it that night with Keys.

“She’s part of the extended family. That makes it special. Alicia, creatively and in every way, is one of those artist-geniuses that I helped nurture with a safe and supportive home that they felt comfortable,” Davis said, citing Springsteen, Patti Smith and Keys are just a few of the many well-known artists he’s signed over the years.

“It never occurred to me to fantasize about an award like this tonight,” Davis added. “I can’t even find the perfect adjective that describes the thrill.”

Serena Williams celebrates black joy

Serena Williams poses with her award at the National Portrait Gallery gala.

Endings and new beginnings were also front and center for DuVernay, whose influential TV series “Queen Sugar” ends later this month after seven seasons, and for Serena Williams, who played the final game of her career as tennis two months ago.

For all of Williams’ grueling work breaking down barriers on and off the tennis court, artist Toyin Ojih Odutola chose to depict her in a simpler scene – one of relaxation and joy.

“I think it’s so important for the National Portrait Gallery to see a black woman smile,” Serena Williams said to applause. “Black women are often seen as serious, and we are. And we’re happy too. We’re mothers, we’re wives, and we’re the backbone of this country.”

A portrait of Serena Williams by artist Toyin Ojih Odutola is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

After:Serena Williams Serves ‘What’s Next’, Dishes on New Fashion Collection at NYFW

And:José Andrés ‘can’t try to solve all the problems’, but he can try to nurture every person who needs hope

Julia P. Cluff