To make up Bill and Melinda Gates’ Annual Letter for 2018, BellaNaija‘s founder Uche Pedro, alongside 9 other persons asked the philanthropic couple tough questions as regards their work.
Bill and Melinda Gates discussed their optimism about the world’s progress, their philanthropic work inside the United States, as well as how President Donald Trump‘s policies are affecting their work.
The couple explained that they are donating money in the U.S in the education sector and are looking forward to expanding their work beyond education.
On whether they are imposing their values on other cultures, Bill said:
On one level, I think the answer is obviously no. The idea that children shouldn’t die of malaria or be malnourished is not just our value. It’s a human value. Parents in every culture want their children to survive and thrive.
Sometimes, though, the person asking this question is raising a deeper issue. It’s not so much a question about what we do, but how we do it. Do we really understand people’s needs? Are we working with people on the ground?
Melinda also adds that they work with thousands of partners who keep them “connected to the people we’re trying to help.”
“We’re acutely aware that some development programs in the past were led by people who assumed they knew better than the people they were trying to help. We’ve learned over the years that listening and understanding people’s needs from their perspective is not only more respectful—it’s also more effective,” she says.
On whether saving kids’ lives leads to overpopulation, Bill and Melinda said that when parents are sure their kids will survive into adulthood, they have fewer children.
Bill, in response to the question about the effect of Trump’s policies on the foundation’s work said:
The administration’s policies affect our foundation’s work in a number of areas. The most concrete example is foreign aid…. President Trump proposed severe cuts to foreign aid. To its credit, Congress has moved to put the money back in the budget. It’s better for the United States when it leads, through both hard power and soft power.
Bill and Melinda also said that they work with corporations “because they can do things no one else can” (Melinda) and that they “think poor people should benefit from the same kind of innovation in health and agriculture that has improved life in the richest parts of the world.” (Bill).
“It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little. And it’s not fair that our wealth opens doors that are closed to most people,” Melinda said in response to a question on whether it is fair they have so much influence.
Bill, in his response said: “Even though our foundation is the biggest in the world, the money we have is very small compared to what businesses and governments spend…. There’s another issue at the heart of this question. If we think it’s unfair that we have so much wealth, why don’t we give it all to the government? The answer is that we think there’s always going to be a unique role for foundations.”
“What happens when the two of you disagree?”: Melinda, answering this question said: “We never disagree. Just kidding…. Bill and I have two things going in our favor. First, we agree on basic values…. Second, Bill is very open-minded, which isn’t necessarily how people perceive him.”
“I agree with all of this!” Bill said, adding “We are partners in both senses that people use the word these days: at home and at work.“
On why they are doing charity work, Bill said: “One is that it’s meaningful work…. The other reason is that we have fun doing it.”
We both come from families that believed in leaving the world better than you found it. My parents made sure my siblings and I took the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church to heart. Bill’s mom was known, and his dad still is known, for showing up to advocate for a dizzying number of important causes and support more local organizations than you can count.
When we got to know Warren Buffett, we discovered that he was steeped in those same values, even though he grew up in a different place and at a different time. When Warren entrusted us with giving away a large portion of his wealth, we redoubled our efforts to live up to the values we share.
You can check out the full letter HERE.
Later today, we’ll also be bringing you the video of Uche Pedro’s communication with Gates.
Photo Credit: Gates Foundation