Bill Gates is founder, former CEO and current chairman of Microsoft. His vision and entrepreneurial leadership – fueled by his long-held dream that millions realize their potential through software – made a personal computing powerhouse and household name.
In the summer of 2008, Gates left his day-to-day role with Microsoft to focus on philanthropy as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Maintaining that all lives have equal value no matter where they are being lived, the Foundation donates to expand opportunities to the world’s most disadvantaged people. Collaborating with grantees and partners, the Foundation is focused on programs in global health and education, HIV/AIDS, libraries and agriculture research.
The Annenberg Leadership and Management Speaker Series of Harvey Mudd College, and The Distinguished Lecture Series of Pomona College present “A Conversation with Bill Gates” on March 10, 2011. The Bridges Auditorium in Pomona College is abuzz with tangible excitement and anticipation as students and faculty members fill the seats and wait patiently for the night’s distinguished lecturer. His reception can only be described as that of a rock star.
Bill Gates spent the day with students of Harvey Mudd College, and the recipients of his Gates Millennium Scholarship before his lecture at 5:00pm. Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, hosts and has the honor of interviewing Mr. Gates before students are given a chance to ask questions. “What struck you about your interactions with the students and faculty from Pomona College and Harvey Mudd College?” asks Klawe. “The energy. The optimism. I got to see some poster sessions which involved real research work done at the undergraduate level, and several of the projects, I think, will succeed in having a meaningful impact. So, the depth of work that’s being done, I’d normally think of that as graduate work, but the kind of special energy those kids put into it, and just to see a high level quality institution of learning, and when it works; how well it works, that you get professors who like having great kids. You get great kids who like having great professors. One of the great assets of the U.S. is the higher education systems including institutions like the ones you have here. It makes me optimistic about the future.” Gates responds.
“As you look around the world… What are the things that you’re most optimistic about in addition to the Claremont Colleges of course, and what are you most concerned about?” asks Klawe. “Innovation I think is greatly underestimated, and sometimes innovation doesn’t focus on the needs of the poorest… I was pretty stunned when our organization became involved with Malaria, and with actually some pretty small grants we became the biggest funder of work on the Malaria Vaccine… The people who should benefit the most from innovation, the poorest two billion on the planet, we have to take special measures to make that happen.” Says Gates.
“One of the things that you said in your annual letter from the Gates Foundation, is that you’re willing to be a trouble-maker when it comes to making progress on AIDS internationally. So, um, being a trouble-maker myself, I was wondering exactly what did you have in mind?” Klawe inquires. “Well AIDS is a tragic disease that is still killing over two million people a year and several million people are getting infected every year… Now for the people who need it the most, we’re looking at huge delays and very complex protocols to make sure that there’s absolutely no harm done in these things, so It’s going to take way longer than it should to get the tools in place and it’s not because any one person understands that, it’s just because these systems weren’t designed to solve this problem, and so it’s possible that informing people or some form of leadership could get the speed up of a new vaccine getting out… For the developing world you’ve got to get vaccines down to a dollar or less.”
Gates went on to discuss his views on healthcare, military spending, and philanthropy before students were allowed to ask questions of their own.
Bill Gates’ entire lecture is available at: http://www.pomona.edu/news/2011/01/28-bill-gates-visit-pomona.aspx
This is part one of a two part series featuring Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates at recent lecture series for the Harvey Mudd College – Annenberg Leadership and Management Speaker Series and Pomona College – Distinguished Lecture Series. Part two will further discuss the questions raised by Maria Klawe and the audience.