Written 3/18/2015 By: Elizabeth Leer
Unless they live under a rock or in some remote and very isolated part of the world, most people know who Bill and Melinda Gates are; although those parts of the world are becoming less frequent largely in part to Bill and Melinda Gates. However as famous as they are for their achievements in business, technology, and philanthropic endeavors, some still may not know where the Gates family values and world responsibilities stem from.
Both Bill and Melinda were raised giving back to the community. Their families raised them with the philosophy that you are never too young to help out someone less fortunate than yourself. It is this upbringing that laid the foundation for Bill Gates and Melinda French, who became Melinda Gates in January of 1994, to become the caring philanthropists that they are today.
The drive to start the Gates Foundation was sparked after they read an article in 1997, on the millions of childhood deaths that happen every year in poor countries around the world due to inadequate living conditions, poor medical access, and the lack of immunizations. Bill and Melinda began to develop their foundation plans using the Gates family’s strong beliefs that “all lives have equal value” as a compass for the foundation’s direction. Later that year, as one of its first outreach programs, Bill Gates himself visited India helping the foundation administer polio vaccinations for the first time.
Within that same year the foundation donated $200 million to assist all U.S. Public Libraries in providing free internet access to the public. Their conviction with this venture was, and still is that technology is the future, and it needs to be easily accessible to everyone not only those who can afford to pay for it. Since then the foundation has expanded to provide global assistance in the areas of education, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and medical treatments to poverty stricken areas.
With a lifetime donation of over $30 billion, in 2006, to keep the work that Bill and Melinda were doing with their foundation continuing for many years to come, Warren Buffet doubled the foundations spending ability allowing the foundation to expand to more countries and people in need.
But, donating to the Gates foundation was not the only assistance Warren Buffet provided to the Gates family; he also offered Bill and Melinda some very insightful advice from his years of experience. He told them, “Don’t just go for safe projects. Take on the really tough problems.” They listened and incorporated this rule of thumb into their already established guidelines of only focusing on a few important issues in order to be able to have the greatest impact on the most people while helping tear down the barriers that prevent people from achieving the best lives possible.
It was not only in regards to business and philanthropic endeavors that the Gates family took the advice of Warren Buffet; they also followed his lead when it came to deciding what would happen after they died. Warren Buffet said in a letter to the Gates Foundation, “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.” Bill and Melinda took these words to heart, and established their own will that left a mere $10 million of their estimated $76 billion worth to each of their children with the rest of their fortune being left to charity and their foundation.
Even before they met, Bill and Melinda had decided their children would be raised with the same core beliefs that volunteering and public service are an integral part of being fortunate. Their philosophies on raising children mirror the philosophies that they use when running their foundation; that education, access to life’s necessities, and having access to the tools needed to succeed are essential to living a fulfilling life.
When asked in a recent interview with Wired about his and his wife’s plans for their children’s futures Mr. Gates confirmed that his children will not be raised as “trust-fund kids”. Their goal with their children is to create a balance so that their children can do anything they set their minds to, but not provide them with so much that they have no drive to do anything. They will be provided with good educations to allow them to establish their own abilities instead of relying on their parents. Mr. Gates said, “They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important.” He went on to say, “You’ve got to make sure they have a sense of their own ability and what they’re going to go and do.”
Although Bill and Melinda are typically very private when it comes to their children, they have openly discussed their beliefs in how to raise their children to be independent and productive members of the human race. Their children showed their support of their parent’s ideas, decisions, and charitable endeavors by allowing their photo to be shown to the public by Melinda Gates as she described her trip to Tanzania with her eldest daughter, for their foundation’s fight against childhood mortality and to provide a better quality of education worldwide.
In a world that constantly battles the balance between poverty and overly plentiful, it is nice to see the Gates family be role models for those who have far more than they could ever spend to make their children become productive independent individuals; instead of the paparazzi crazed “trust-fund kids” that are constantly displayed in the media for their bad behavior and made famous for doing nothing other than partying, getting into trouble, and shopping.