Thursday, June 15, 2006

Philanthropy for the rich and famous

Bill Gates just announced that he's going to be leaving his day-to-day role at Microsoft in 2008. He's going to concentrate on the great work that his charities are doing.

If you listen to public radio and watch public TV, then you've probably heard the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the William H Gates Foundation (that's Bill's father). What I've liked about these foundations is that they have been focusing on such basic things, but things which have a huge impact on the global level. Things like Tuberculosis, Polio, AIDS, and vaccines for a multitude of other diseases which are so prevalent in the 3rd World we should be ashamed of ourselves. And then there's all the education related work the foundation undertakes. And this work isn't just a drop in the bucket - we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, the Gates Foundation is the world's largest charitable foundation.

Much of the discussion about Gates' announcement will focus on what happens to Microsoft going forward (in fact, the CNN story hardly mentions a thing about what Gates is moving onto, it just talks about the Microsoft plans). But I think this is a HUGE win for the world as a whole. Many people deride MS for providing crappy products and using it's marketshare to squash everything good in the software world, but it's clear that Gates has had an eye out for what good he can do outside of the sofware world for a long time. Given his success with MS (luck and timing included), I think he'll do much much greater things for the world as he begins to focus on the philanthropic work his foundation can lead.

The current leaders of our world can learn a thing or two from this announcement. Here's to people taking a step back and doing things for the greater good.

Cheers, Bill Gates.

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