A decade ago, we started a new annual tradition: sitting down to write a letter about our work in philanthropy. We got the idea from our friend Warren Buffett, who’s been writing brilliant reports to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway for more than half a century.

This year we’re marking our 10th letter by answering 10 tough questions about our work that people often ask us. Here is one of them. You can read the rest at gatesletter.com.

Why are you really giving your money away—what’s in it for you?

Bill: It’s not because we think about how we’ll be remembered. We would be delighted if someday diseases like polio and malaria are a distant memory, and the fact that we worked on them is too.

There are two reasons to do something like this. One is that it’s meaningful work. Even before we got married, we talked about how we would eventually spend a lot of time on philanthropy. We think that’s a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money. Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.

The other reason is that we have fun doing it. Both of us love digging into the science behind our work. At Microsoft, I got deep into computer science. At the foundation, it’s computer science plus biology, chemistry, agronomy, and more. I’ll spend hours talking to a crop researcher or an HIV expert, and then I’ll go home, dying to tell Melinda what I’ve learned.

It’s rare to have a job where you get to have both a big impact and a lot of fun. I had it with Microsoft, and I have it with the foundation. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the bulk of my time.

Melinda: We both come from families that believed in leaving the world better than you found it. My parents made sure my siblings and I took the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church to heart. Bill’s mom was known, and his dad still is known, for showing up to advocate for a dizzying number of important causes and support more local organizations than you can count.

When we got to know Warren Buffett, we discovered that he was steeped in those same values, even though he grew up in a different place and at a different time. When Warren entrusted us with giving away a large portion of his wealth, we redoubled our efforts to live up to the values we share.

Of course, these values are not unique to the three of us. Millions of people give back by volunteering their time and donating money to help others. We are, however, in the more unusual position of having a lot of money to donate. Our goal is to do what our parents taught us and do our part to make the world better.

Bill and I have been doing this work, more or less full-time, for 17 years. That’s the majority of our marriage. It’s almost the entirety of our children’s lives. By now the foundation’s work has become inseparable from who we are. We do the work because it’s our life.

We’ve tried to pass on values to our children by talking with them about the foundation’s work, and, as they’ve gotten older, taking them with us on trips so they can see it for themselves. We’ve connected to each other through thousands of daily debriefs on learning sessions, site visits, and strategy meetings. Where we go, who we spend our time with, what we read and watch and listen to—these decisions are made through the prism of our work at the foundation (when we’re not watching The Crown).

Maybe 20 years ago, we could have made a different choice about what to do with our wealth. But now it’s impossible to imagine. If we’d decided to live a different life then, we wouldn’t be us now. This is who we chose to be.

Read the rest of our Annual Letter and ask us your toughest question at gatesletter.com.

Written by

Bill Gates
Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Originally at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-were-really-giving-our-money-away-bill-gates


Can it get any geographically punnier than this?

Timmy : I’m Hungary,.

Mum : Why don’t you Czech the fridge.

Timmy : Ok, I’m Russian to the kitchen.

Mum : Hmm…maybe you’ll find some Turkey.

Timmy : Yeah, but its all covered in Greece. Yuck !

Mum : There is Norway you can eat that.

Timmy : I know, I guess I’ll just have a can of Chile.

Mum : Denmark your name on the can.

Timmy : Kenya do it for me?

Mum : Ok , I’m Ghana do it.

Timmy : Thanks, i’m so tired Iran for an hour today.

Mum : It Tokyo long enough.

Timmy : Yeah, Israelly hard sometimes !

Trump’s hypothetical first day at the Oval Office.

First briefing by the CIA, Pentagon, FBI:

Trump: We must destroy ISIS immediately.

CIA: We cannot do that, sir. We created them along with Turkey, Saudi, Qatar and others.

Trump: The Democrats created them.

CIA: We created ISIS, sir. You need them or else you would lose funding from the natural gas lobby.

Trump: Stop funding Pakistan. Let India deal with them.

CIA: We can’t do that.

Trump: So what?

CIA: India will cut Balochistan out of Pak.

Trump: I don’t care.

CIA: India will have peace in Kashmir. They will stop buying our weapons. They will become a superpower. We have to fund Pakistan to keep India busy in Kashmir.

Trump: But you have to destroy the Taliban.

CIA: Sir, we can’t do that. We created the Taliban to keep Russia in check during the 80s. Now they are keeping Pakistan busy and away from their nukes.

Trump: We have to destroy terror sponsoring regimes in the Middle East. Let us start with the Saudis.

Pentagon: Sir, we can’t do that. We created those regimes because we wanted their oil. We can’t have democracy there, otherwise their people will get that oil – and we cannot let their people own it.

Trump: Then, let us invade Iran.

Pentagon: We cannot do that either, sir.

Trump: Why not?

CIA: We are talking to them, sir.

Trump: What? Why?

CIA: We want our stealth drone back. If we attack them, Russia will obliterate us as they did to our buddy ISIS in Syria. Besides we need Iran to keep Israel in check.

Trump: Then let us invade Iraq again.

CIA: Sir, our friends (ISIS) are already occupying 1/3rd of Iraq.

Trump: Why not the whole of Iraq?

CIA: We need the Shi’ite gov’t of Iraq to keep ISIS in check.

Trump: I am banning Muslims from entering US.

FBI: We can’t do that.

Trump: Why not?

FBI: Then our own population will become fearless.

Trump: I am deporting all illegal immigrants to south of the border.

Border patrol: You can’t do that, sir.

Trump: Why not?

Border patrol: If they’re gone, who will build the wall?

Trump: I am banning H1Bs.

USCIS: You cannot do that.

Trump: Why?

Chief of staff: If you do so we’ll have to outsource White House operations to Bangalore. Which is in India.

Trump: What the hell should I do???

CIA: Enjoy the White House, sir! We will take care of the rest!!!

God bless America!

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