News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2006


Bill Gates finds good way to spend his time, money

Being the world's richest man comes with obligations.

Bill Gates, 50, whose estimated net worth is about $50 billion, announced Thursday that he will leave his day-to-day work at Microsoft Corp. in two years, while remaining as its chairman.

He plans to devote full time to charitable work. He says he wants to give most of his money to charity.

He and his wife started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, and it now has assets of $29.1 billion. It is the world's largest philanthropy — a leader in international public health, especially in fighting HIV, malaria and tuberculosis in the developing world. In the United States, the foundation focuses on education, including reforming schools and putting technology in public libraries.

In naming the Gateses (along with entertainer Bono) as Persons of the Year for 2005, Time magazine reported that Mr. Gates had planned to wait until he retired to create a foundation. But a lot of people were asking for money for worthy causes, and his father, Bill Gates Sr., urged him to speed up his plans — which he did, with his father managing the charitable work.

The foundation's guiding principles, listed on its Web site, say that "philanthropy plays an important but limited role." The organization tries to fund and shape events, using science and technology to improve lives. It "prioritizes some of the most neglected issues."

"We take risks, make big bets, and move with urgency," one of the principles says. "We are in it for the long haul."

With his wealth, his influence, and the business savvy that built a huge software company from scratch, Mr. Gates has the potential to accomplish much good. Through personal computing, his company has already changed almost everyone's life in the developed world. His foundation could benefit even more people.

It's good to see all that money burning a hole in his pocket — making him want to spend it unselfishly.

"With success," he said last week, "I have been given great wealth. And with great wealth comes great responsibility to give back to society, to see that those resources are put to work in the best possible way to help those in need."

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