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Why You Should Read Bill Gates’ 2014 Annual Letter. Yes, You.

Surely you didn’t think I would overlook this?

The day that Bill and Melinda Gates Annual letter arrives is (or should be) a red-letter day. Their 2014 annual letter was published this week.

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Why should you care?

This year, the letter, written from the heart, tears up some big myths about global poverty that pervade our societies and cultures, no matter where in the world you live. While it does so with a sense of optimism, being the self-admitted geeky nerd that he is, Mr. Gates backs up his view of the world and its future with numbers, facts and figures.

Don’t agree that it’s worth a read? Then, here’s another reason you should care.

See, the way I look at it is like this – as the Gates’ commit their lives and contribute invaluable resources to save the world, it should hardly be a difficulty for the rest of us to spend a few minutes to understand their mission and its progress. It’s our world too. Right?

Still don’t care? Well in that case, it’s time to say bye now.  😦

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On the other hand, if you who have made it this far, here is a Cliff Notes version of the letter, single-minded and aimed at whetting your appetite-

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First of is Bill Gates’ fantastic prediction about the end of poverty in the world by 2035. It should make even the most heartless, disbelieving cynic sit up and take notice.

Is this really possible? Remember, it’s not just anyone who is saying it….Bill Gates puts his money (and life) where his mouth is.  

Excerpt: It will be a remarkable achievement. When I was born, most countries in the world were poor. In the next two decades, desperately poor countries will become the exception rather than the rule. Billions of people will have been lifted out of extreme poverty. The idea that this will happen within my lifetime is simply amazing to me.

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Second is a myth that I for one needed to understand better. The impact of foreign aid is indeed phenomenal – and just in case you doubted it, Mr.Gates blows through the myth that it’s not with impressive facts and figures.

And that’s even with foreign aid being as relatively minuscule as I found out it is.  The US is the largest provider, and its aid amounts to just 0.8 percent of the U.S. federal budget (yes, that period is in the right place).

Excerpt: I don’t want to imply that $11 billion a year isn’t a lot of money. But to put it in perspective, it’s about $30 for every American. Imagine that the income tax form asked, “Can we use $30 of the taxes you’re already paying to protect 120 children from measles?”  Would you check yes or no?

Excerpt:Also remember that healthy children do more than merely survive. They go to school and eventually work, and over time they make their countries more self-sufficient. This is why I say aid is such a bargain.

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Excerpt: The next time someone tells you we can trim the budget by cutting aid, I hope you will ask whether it will come at the cost of more people dying.

Excerpt: Let’s put this achievement in historical perspective. A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent. I can’t think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close.

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And finally, the third myth that Melinda Gates demolishes is that saving lives will lead to overpopulation.

Excerpt: We make the future sustainable when we invest in the poor, not when we insist on their suffering.

Excerpt: Saving lives doesn’t lead to overpopulation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite…We will build a better future for everyone by giving people the freedom and the power to build a better future for themselves and their families.

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Enough said. Or perhaps not?

Go read The Gates Letter in its entirety. Don’t be so selfish – do the world that you live in a big favor.  30 minutes or less is all you need – to learn from it, to get inspired and last but not least, to pass it on (another big favor).

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And in case you haven’t seen this video of Bill Gates promoting this letter in his own unique and corny way on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (of all things),  have a look.

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My Hero (yet again): Bill Gates

He’s my hero yet again, an unlikely one at that!  No, not because he was named to one of those “Top” lists once more – he’s #5 on Forbes’ latest list, Top 100 Most Powerful People in the World.  That’s so been there, done that for Bill Gates.

It’s for this:

“The metric of success is lives saved, kids who aren’t crippled,” says Gates. “Which is slightly different than units sold, profits achieved. But it’s all very measurable, and you can set ambitious goals and see how you do.”

Forbes has a wonderful article (from which this quote was taken) that I would strongly encourage you to read. It’s called:

With Vaccines, Bill Gates Changes The World Again

Here is the Cliff Notes version. It aims to show you why he (& Melinda Gates) should be your heroes too.

Did you know?

  • When Bill and Melinda first started their initiatives in public health, they went the way of birth control thinking that with each unborn child (in developing nations) you saved a child from hunger, poverty and illness.
  • He had his epiphany later when he recognized that when mortality rates fall, so do birth rates, leading to the a stable population.  As he said about his realization, “Most people don’t choose to have eight children because they want to have big families, it turns out, but because they know that many of their children will die.
  • That was when he did a complete turnaround and decided that instead of preventing births, he would give his billions towards saving lives, specifically of children that were already born and lived in environments of poverty and poor health.
  • With this, he set out to fight the war with the vaccine – because vaccines – not doctors, not hospitals or anything else – could scale to the level he needed and fight the war against debilitating and fatal diseases.  Melinda Gates echoes that thought: “Where’s the place you can have the biggest impact with the money? Where can you save the very most lives with those ­resources?
  • His total Foundation endowment is now $36 billion, with $25 billion given away for his various causes.
  • You cannot do without the money, but money alone does not do the work. You have to coerce, motivate, negotiate, create market demand and create a sustainable business model so that governments can get to work and pharmaceutical companies can get to work – in developing and distributing vaccines to all the people that need them. Who better to take this on than Bill Gates?
  • With this they created a sustainable economic environment that will ensure that their money is in fact reaching millions of children around the globe in the form of whatever is needed for a healthy, productive life.
  • This is just part of the magic of what Bill and Melinda Gates are doing with their billions. You can see what some of their other grants are here.

I end with this paragraph from the awesome Forbes article written by Forbes writer Matthew Herper; I sincerely hope that you will read it in it’s entirety and get inspired by this amazing man –

It’s heady, historic stuff: America’s richest man—he’d be the world’s richest had he not already given away so much money—still in his prime (he just turned 56), with the reputation, resources and determination to stamp out infectious disease. “I’d be deeply disappointed,” says Gates, if in the next 25 years he can’t lower the death toll by 80%. Otherwise, “we’re just not doing our job very well.”

Now, can someone please enlighten me – is there truly any other individual alive today who is doing so much for the people of this world?

One chart presented by Bill Gates to world leaders at the G20 Summit

Read more about the progress being made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation here.

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Photo and Image Credits:

Bill and Melinda Gates By World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

All other images: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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