Integrity Matters
July 18, 2007

Open up to Gates' example of giving back, not Hilton's

Question: (E-300)
You wrote on May 16 that Paris Hilton's escapades are not newsworthy. Do you still feel that way?

Yes, but instead of wasting energy denouncing the antics of a feisty rich child, let me point to a positive example of someone who not only has accumulated huge resources but also gives back generously and constructively. That person is self-made multi-billionaire, Bill Gates.

On June 7, Microsoft's Gates offered some interesting challenges during his commencement address at Harvard University, according to an article the next day in the Wall Street Journal. His topic: "Using philanthropy to reduce global inequities in health, wealth and education."

"Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries," Gates said, "but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care or broad economic opportunity, reducing inequity is the highest human achievement."

Even without completing his degree studies at Harvard, Gates said he'd learned plenty: knowledge of economics, politics and the sciences. Then he mentioned a lingering regret - "having left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequalities in the world, the appalling disparities of health and wealth and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of poverty, disease and despair."

In addition to identifying problems, the entrepreneur, innovator, billionaire and humanitarian also relentlessly pursues solutions. He outlines a four-point plan for attacking complex problems:

  1. Determine a goal.
  2. Find the highest leverage point.
  3. Discover the ideal technology for that approach.
  4. Make the smartest application of the technology that you already have.

Gates used the AIDS epidemic as an example of how to apply his process:

  1. The broad goal is to end the disease.
  2. The highest leverage is prevention.
  3. Ideal technology would be a vaccine that provides lifetime immunity with a single dose - requiring governments, drug companies and foundations to fund research.
  4. In the meantime, get people to avoid risky behavior, which requires its own four-point approach.

Whether through Bill Gates' dreams or with simple acts of graciousness and care, just about everyone can help make the world better. Listening, really listening, to those around us builds bridges, improves productivity, strengthens community and knocks down barriers. Helping others to apply Gates' simple four-point plan, with whatever resources are available, great or small, enables each person to partner in humanity's highest achievement: constructively addressing poverty, disease and despair.

Integrity starts with listening! Do your part!

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