"I have an obligation to return my resources."
One of the more frustrating and unsettling aspects of our time is the stark contrast between those who are impoverished and those who are wealthy. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaires have seen their fortunes astronomically surge as millions of ordinary people lost their homes, jobs and livelihoods. It’s enough to make one think we’re living out that famous passage from Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.” It's a spring of hope for a lucky few—a winter of despair for the rest.
However, steps to narrow that troubling gap are being taken. Bill Gates just announced he would donate $20 billion to his foundation, increasing its annual spending potential.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is donating $20 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation https://t.co/5EwsWkm8LFpic.twitter.com/s1eRMe4eAc
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 14, 2022
According to a statement on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website, the donation builds on his and Melinda French Gates’ $15 billion commitment made in summer of 2021 along with a previous $3.1 billion gift from Warren Buffet. The total endowment has now reached approximately $70 billion, marking a 50% increase over pre-pandemic levels.In his personal Gates Notes blog, the Microsoft co-founder described the “significant suffering” brought on by the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine, noting how progress had been severely halted in health, education, climate mitigation, financial improvement and gender equality. And yet, the “incredible heroism and sacrifice” seen from people all over the world keeps him “optimistic” and believing that “progress is possible.”
“I hope by giving more, we can mitigate some of the suffering people are facing right now and help fulfill the foundation’s vision to give every person the chance to live a healthy and productive life,” his statement read.French Gates added, “Philanthropy has a unique role to play in helping people around the world recover from the pandemic and rebuild the underlying systems that left so many so vulnerable to begin with.” The additional spending would help provide a more “fair and inclusive recovery.”
The graph shows the Gates Foundation's historical and projected spending up to 2026.
The donation will aid to innovate:
- Pandemic prevention, eradicating diseases and reducing childhood deaths with improved vaccines
- Food security and climate adaptation through incorporating a new generation of seeds and providing farmers with cell phones
- Gender equality by providing women better access to contraceptives and financial empowerment
- Educational outcomes by equipping students with computers
- Climate change mitigation by inventing new ways of making products that eliminate emissions at low costs
Gates is currently the world’s fourth wealthiest individual. But helping others is far more important to him than holding onto that coveted title. "I will move down and eventually off of the list of the world's richest people," Gates wrote. "I have an obligation to return my resources to society in ways that have the greatest impact for improving lives. I hope others in positions of great wealth and privilege will step up in this moment too."
Whether the world could use less billionaires or not can be a heated debate, but the importance of generosity is a fairly universal virtue. Wealth can unite, rather than divide.