Monday, Apr. 26, 2004

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is one of a kind. No, I'm not talking about the Bill who in a short period developed one of the most innovative and successful businesses in history. I'm talking about the Bill who, along with his wife Melinda, has in a far shorter length of time developed and funded the most innovative and successful foundation in history. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a $27 billion endowment and in just a few years has pledged more than $7 billion.

A few years ago, Bill and Melinda asked themselves how they could dramatically help the lives of the most people per dollar spent—and then set out to spend more dollars on the ideas they came up with than has ever before been devoted to any philanthropic effort. From the start, they agreed that their money was not to be allocated based on the recognition or applause they might receive, nor on the race, color or creed of the recipients. Rather, cash would be channeled so as to address the vital needs—indeed, in many cases, the very survival—of people around the world. With breathtaking speed, they turned these thoughts into reality by focusing on global health and learning issues. In 1999 their foundation made one of the largest charitable pledges ever: $750 million for child vaccines.

And Bill and Melinda have since invested far more than money. They have put their impressive intellects and energies behind their philanthropic works. Bill has become a walking encyclopedia of medical knowledge. He reads many thousands of pages annually so that he can learn how to attack the world's most dangerous illnesses. I have heard him speak many times on this subject and each time have been amazed by the breadth of his knowledge. Melinda, for her part, travels the world so that she can understand what a check from Seattle is actually accomplishing 10,000 miles away. She insists that good intentions produce good results. Both Bill and Melinda bring an extraordinary blend of head and heart to the incredibly tough job of intelligently giving away billions of dollars. In particular, they are nimble in a way that is rare in large philanthropic institutions. When a need is immediate, their response is immediate.

There are no two people I admire more for their contribution to mankind's welfare.

Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

From the Archive
Bill and Melinda Gates: Giving billions isn't easy