Bill Gates in his Harvard commencement address (2007) said “Be activists. Take on big inequities…You have an awareness of global inequity, which we did not have. And with that awareness you likely have an informed conscience that will torment you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with very little effort.”
He confessed his ignorance of this topic when he was a Harvard undergraduate. Gates is the wealthiest Harvard dropout in history — he dropped out in 1975 after two years at Harvard — who has given away billions of dollars of his fortune to the Gates Foundation to tackle global diseases and other topics. [Gates joked about his dropping out; saying “I’ve been waiting more than 30 years to say this. Dad, I always told you I’d come back and get my degree.”]
“We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism, if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or make a living, serving people who are suffering, ” Gates commented.
Gates reportedly got his inspiration for the commencement talk (according to today’s WSJ) while waiting to see Condoleeza Rice at the State Department, in December, when he happened to read a framed copy of the Marsall Plan for Europe, given by George Marshall at a post-WWII Harvard commencement address. Gates saw parallels between his social vision for the world and Marshall’s social and economic vision for Europe post-WWII.
We hope that his example (and Warren Buffet’s) of philanthropy and dedication to easing global inequity inspires countless other wealthy capitalists to make similar commitments.