If I had a dime for every time someone joked about Bill Gates not having his degree, I could probably buy a machine that would produce a rim-shot each time someone joked about Bill not having a degree. Seriously, do you know how many times you hear that joke when you hire people for Microsoft <big sigh>? Do you know how hard it is to produce a fake chuckle every time? Is there a machine for that too?
Today, Bill Gates was awarded an honorary doctorate at his alma mater, Harvard. I bet it’s easy to be gracious and self-deprecating when you are a gajillionaire (hee!). Doing great things with your wealth is another matter entirely. You go, Bill.
Here’s the prepared text of Bill’s speech. He starts out with some fun stories about his time at Harvard and then talks about his mission going forward. In that second part, there were a couple of statements that really stuck out to me:
“The market did not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.”
“If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. It can never be finished. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.”
“The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.”
“I remember going to Davos some years back and sitting on a global health panel…this was the most boring panel I’ve ever been on – ever. So boring even I couldn’t bear it…What made that experience especially striking was that I had just come from an event where we were introducing version 13 of some piece of software, and we had people jumping and shouting with excitement. I love getting people excited about software – but why can’t we generate even more excitement for saving lives?”
I love to hear Bill talk about education and healthcare. Education is a big issue for me, having had most of my education funded through scholarship and grants and given that I just recently finished paying off my student loans (which covered the rest). Man, that is a good feeling! I do feel fortunate that the means to go to college was made available to me and can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who really wants to go but can’t. I have feelings about it because of my personal history and because of my work.
Anyway, I thought Bill’s comments were interesting and inspiring.