Even Mark Zuckerberg wants to pick Bill and Melinda Gates’ brains. “If you could go back and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?” he asked via a Facebook Live stream of an event the Gateses spoke at to mark the release of their annual letter. “Asking for a friend.”
For the last decade, Bill and Melinda Gates have written an annual letter about their philanthropic work. This year, they used the space to address 10 “tough questions” they get, ranging from how Trump’s policies affect their work to whether they’re imposing their values on other cultures (“The idea that children shouldn’t die of malaria or be malnourished is not just our value,” Bill writes in the letter). They talked about the letter with Lin-Manuel Miranda and an audience of students at Hunter College of the City University of New York in Manhattan today.
Miranda took a handful of questions from the Facebook Live audience as well as students in the auditorium in which he’d graduated from Hunter College. They cheered when Zuckerberg’s question popped up on the projection screen. Bill Gates’ advice for Zuckerberg: know that it takes many skill sets on a team to solve some problems. Smartness alone doesn’t solve everything. “Trust yourself” that you probably know more than you think you do, Melinda said. “Trust that you can learn anything.” (Miranda would advise his younger self, and the high school students in the audience, that the drama between friends that feels huge “is not that deep.”)
A number of the questions in the letter touch on the perceived tension between deploying philanthropy abroad versus at home, especially given President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut government foreign aid and emphasis on putting “America First.”
Even a ten percent cut to aid for HIV/AIDS and malaria work would mean five million deaths over the next decade, Bill said. “It makes no sense to us” to see a budget that cuts foreign aid, Melinda added.
“Although we disagree with this administration more than the others we’ve met with, we believe it’s still important to work together whenever possible. We keep talking to them because if the U.S. cuts back on its investments abroad, people in other countries will die, and Americans will be worse off,” Bill wrote in the letter. “Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment.”
More generally, Melinda added in the letter, “I believe one of the duties of the president of the United States is to role model American values in the world. I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets.”
The Gates Foundation’s efforts to give women throughout the world access to contraception came up multiple times in the letter and at the event—one student asked how they do the work without being seen as “second wave colonialists.” Melinda linked it to their goal of improving children’s health (“If you can space the births of children by three years, they’re twice as likely to make it to their fifth birthday”) and described how they’ve worked with local partners to match their efforts to the community’s needs. “If you do it in a culturally sensitive way, women will take it up in droves,” Melinda said. “They’re asking for them.”
The letter also highlighted their work on education in the U.S., and hinted at new efforts in the works to alleviate poverty that aren’t fully fleshed out yet. “It is ultimately about helping low-income students and students of color get the same opportunities as everyone else,” the Gateses wrote. “The issues of economic mobility in America are deeply intertwined: education, employment, race, housing, mental health, incarceration, substance abuse.”
Bill took the opportunity talking to an auditorium full of students to encourage future entrepreneurs to focus on science as the biggest source of new tools to deal with problems from energy needs to healthcare. “Health costs are exploding,” he said. “The only solution for that I see is innovation.”
More Info: www.forbes.com
Categories: Money Matters