“SEVERAL DECADES AGO, when people asked me what my worst nightmare was, I said it would be an outbreak of a respiratory illness that’s brand-new, that’s easily spread, has a high degree of morbidity and mortality, and jumps from the animal reservoir to a human,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health,  when he spoke at a John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum in November. “Right now, we are living through my worst nightmare.”

In the three years since the COVID-19 pandemic first gripped the world, Fauci has become a household name in the United States and beyond. He was frequently the face—often masked—of the scientific community as it struggled to guide the nation through the unprecedented health care crisis, which affected every facet of people’s lives. He defended the sometimes zigzagging path that public health officials laid out. “Science, which I’m sure most people in this audience know, is a self-correcting process,” Fauci explained. “You make a decision at a time X based on the data that you have. If the data changes, you have an obligation as a scientist to change what you’re saying.”

As for the gray area between public health and government, Fauci, who has served the past seven presidents, is very clear: “As a public health official, you absolutely have to stay out of the political realm. You can be involved in policy, but you have to be out of anything that’s political.”

Headshot of Volodymyr Zelenskyy

“Prevention is the basis for lasting peace, the measure to cut short any aggression, the measure to save many more lives than you would save by reacting.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at a Forum in September
Headshot of Maya Wiley

“The fundamental problem democracy is trying to solve is how to be a pluralist society.”

Maya Wiley, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, at a Forum in September
Headshot of Larry Hogan

“Our democracy is at stake. I’m going to stand up, whether my fellow Republicans like it or not. I’m going to tell it like it is.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, speaking at a Forum in October
Headshot of Liz Cheney

“Our institutions don’t defend themselves. January 6 could’ve been far worse if people in positions of authority hadn’t stood up.”

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, speaking at a Forum in October
Headshot of Charlie Baker

“Public service needs the public, not just the professional politicians.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, giving the 2022 Godkin Lecture in November
Headshot of Barbara Lee

It’s not about accusing people. This is about telling the truth, because that’s the only way to move forward.”

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, speaking at a Forum in October

Banner photograph by Martha Stewart; Headshots by Martha Stewart, Heratch Ekmekjian, and  Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP Images