Bill Moyers' dialogue with Bill Gates begins with skepticism. It's the same doubt that greeted Gates in January 2000 when he and his wife formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through which he will donate most of his fortune now estimated at $40.7 billion. At the time, some critics questioned his commitment to philanthropy, calling the move a public relations tactic to divert attention from anti-trust litigation against Microsoft, the company he founded in 1975. Why would a man who spent his life building wealth, want to give most of his money away?
In "Health, Wealth, and Bill Gates," NOW provides a fascinating look into the mind, motivations, and philanthropy of Bill Gates. Recorded in front of a live audience at an event presented by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the Bill Moyers' interview provides a rarely seen view of Gates and traces the journey of discovery that led him to dedicate his fortune to sharing advances in health with the global community. The 60-minute broadcast features the interview with Gates and includes produced segments that provide context to major public health issues facing the globe.
"You know there's a mother and a father behind every one of these deaths that are dealing with that tragedy," says Gates. "When there's 3 million kids every year dying of things that are completely preventable with the technology we have today, I can try and magnify how I feel about that one situation by a factor of 3 million." Today, supporters say his passion for philanthropy and his intelligent approach to public health problems are rivaled only by his devotion to the behemoth Microsoft.
Moyers leads Gates in a discussion of the leading public health crises facing the globe, what his foundation is doing to address them, and where he thinks the roadblocks are to improving global public health. The program reveals Gates as a student of public health with a keen understanding of the intricate policy, scientific, and social hurdles facing the abatement of epidemics like AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and trachoma. The intimate conversation opens a window into Gates' awakening as "the steward" of his wealth, aware of its awesome responsibility and its potential.
"I'll never be able to put myself in the situation that people growing up in the less developed countries are in," says Gates. "I thought: 'What's the greatest inequity left?' And the more I learned about health and the unbelievable inequity…it shocked me every step of the way."