“Sure, working to eliminate childhood infectious diseases was complicated, but complexity had never stopped Bill. The first half of his life had been good preparation for the second half. Some people thought he was being arrogant. Bill saw his ideas as fearless thinking. Why set limits on what you think you can achieve?”
Since the founding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, global health and vaccine development has always been a priority for Bill Gates.
Last month, Gates wrote on his GatesNotes blog about COVID-19 and the scientific advances needed to stop it. Since then, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $250 million directly to fight the pandemic and pledged that his foundation would give its “total attention” to this unprecedented crisis.
The Foundation’s past global health focus has been on the eradication of HIV, malaria and polio. Now, it has shifted resources almost entirely to work on COVID-19, even to the extent that their non-health related work, like K-12 schools and higher education, has changed to examining how they can help facilitate more effective online learning.
It’s been a long and varied journey for Bill Gates. He has now spent more years as a philanthropist than a technology visionary, and the work he is undertaking may, in retrospect, be even greater than his innovations at Microsoft.
Gates would be the first to admit that tackling COVID-19 is daunting, but daunting tasks usually made him work harder and think smarter. He also believes in the power and rippling effect of individual commitments and choices—something vitally critical to our collective success in this pandemic.
Kids, as well as parents and teachers, can find more inspiration as well lots of background history and science about Bill Gates in my new picture book, Think Smart, Be Fearless: A Biography of Bill Gates, illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger and published by Sasquatch Books.
The world is lucky that he has never been easily deterred and remains an “impatient optimist” in his ambitious goals. As I write in the book, “Bill wasn’t afraid. He knew the answer was out there somewhere. He just needed to find it.”