Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is not only a billionaire – he’s also an extremely generous philanthropist, a global visionary and a myth-buster.
In this day and age, when we hear so much about greedy Wall Street crooks and irresponsible corporate plunderers, it’s refreshing to read about someone like Gates – a rich man with a global conscience who puts his money where his mouth is.
In the late 1990s, Gates and his wife formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment fund of almost $40 billion. Besides donating much of their own wealth, the foundation has been strengthened by more than $1 billion from another rich man, Warren Buffett. Many others – businesses and individuals – have contributed to the foundation.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsors many programs to help save the world’s poor from death and debilitating poverty, both at home and abroad. There are programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and polio. Immunizations are a big part of the ongoing successes. The foundation also funds research into widespread tropical diseases that kill so many people. In addition, there are programs for financial aid, agricultural development, hygiene and sanitation and many programs for educational enhancement in the United States and elsewhere.
On a Jan. 21 TV appearance on the “Morning Joe” show, Gates discussed several myths that need to be debunked.
Myth 1: The United States throws away too much money on foreign aid.
Truth: This nation spends less than 1 percent on foreign aid. Less than 2 percent of the money and other forms of aid that are given end up diverted into fraud schemes. The aid, Gates said, has done wonders to help the people in poor countries through the decades.
Myth 2: There is no hope for Third World poor countries as they keep going from bad to worse.
Truth: Wretched poverty has improved in most countries in the world in just the past couple of decades, especially in the formerly poor countries of China, Mexico and Brazil. Open markets combined with foreign assistance and trade have drastically decreased the rates of abject poverty.
Myth 3: The more children saved from death will lead to massive increases in population and thus, more misery, in Third World countries.
Truth: Gates said a surprising fact is health improvements and children being spared from poverty and forms of death actually decrease population because parents tend to have more children when they see so many of their children dying.
As usual, some of these myths have been perpetrated by cynics or those who don’t believe we have a responsibility to help our fellow human beings.
Thank goodness for philanthropists like the Gateses, like Buffett, like Bono and many others who are rich and generous, visionary and determined to make the world better. And, not to forget, we who are not rich can also make huge differences, collectively, through even the smallest of donations and volunteer efforts.
There is indeed hope for this weary world. That hope resides in each and every one of us.