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By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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Gates sets an example for local billionaires to emulate

Uploaded: Nov 24, 2020
I have always admired Bill Gates, founder and former CEO of Microsoft Corp., second richest man in the world, for all the billions of dollars he and his wife, Melinda, have spent to improve the health of people around the globe. His latest and extremely hard-working efforts have been to help find a vaccine to prevent and cure the coronavirus. He is funding this in part through the $50 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That is amazing and I am grateful for all they have done to share their wealth for so many years in ways that will help so many people.

I never met Gates, but my son, Kent, went to work for him after graduating with a computer science degree from UC-Berkeley in the early 1980s. I visited Kent in Seattle soon after he settled in, and on a Saturday we went and walked through the new small corporate Microsoft building. “Want to see Bill's office?" he asked. Yes!

Bill worked in a two-office suite. The left-hand room was the office of the Chairman of the Board, as I recall. It had a big window, a leather-covered desk, a leather chair, two leather chairs for visitors and a clean desktop. All the pencils were sharpened and placed on an inkwell, all facing the same direction.

I walked across a small hall into Bill's office. The office size was the same, as was the window, but the desk was an old door, piled high with papers. An inbox and outbox peaked out beneath the folders atop. Books lined a small shelf; folders and papers lined the corners of the room, and were stacked up to the sill of the window.

How can these two guys -- one an absolute neatnik and the other a person who didn't care zip about neat -- even work together, I wondered. Maybe opposites attract and create new ideas.

Kent called after I got home and told me he just came back from Bill's 30th birthday party -- at a roller skating rink, with free skates provided for all party-goers.

The article about Bill Gates' generosity in the 11-23 issue of the NYT brought to mind e man himself, as well as all the tech CEOs that live in or near Palo Alto -- all of them rich. There's Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Tim Cook of Apple, Larry Page of Alphabet, Sergey Brin recently retired from Alphabet -- to name a few. We have a staggering amount of rich men within a two-mile radius of Palo Alto.

If I look at the top six tech giants, the only two that don't live locally are Gates and Amazon's Jeff Bezos. The four here (and former giants like Eric Schmidt of Google fame) are a starry cluster of brains and wealth.

My mind started asking questions. What if some of their money (or their company's money) could also go toward solving the global health -- and domestic poverty -- problems? Maybe, individually or collectively, they could brainstorm over this Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe during December. 'Tis the season to do things like that.

I hesitate suggesting the use of their money to solve worldwide health problem, because they should do what they want with their own money. But since they all live here, this is a unique place to make my suggestion. Maybe some of their local Palo Alto area friends might mention this idea to them.

This has been a rather traumatic year for all of us, but I, for one, am glad we are alive, that although our area has witnessed another spurt in COVID-19 cases, most of us are wearing our masks and practicing physical distancing, and many of us are not gathering together for big family Thanksgiving dinner, which is most appropriate. And there's also the possibly great news that it appears that a coronavirus vaccine may be on its way in the next six months.

Let us enjoy our blessings, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Share your own wealth with others who need it.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Trish Bubenik , a resident of University South,
on Nov 24, 2020 at 1:25 pm

Trish Bubenik is a registered user.

Beautiful, Diana--well stated during these unprecedented times. Thank you for your Thanksgiving thoughts.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Greater Miranda,
on Nov 24, 2020 at 1:43 pm

Observer is a registered user.

Very good column! Reminds me of the famous line from John Wesley's sermon on "The Use of Money" -- "Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can." And he included a number of other useful suggestions on how to evaluate whether you are using your resources appropriately.

Posted by J, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Nov 24, 2020 at 3:28 pm

J is a registered user.

One thing about Bill Gates is that he's been very public about the causes that he's been supporting. Other tech titans might be privately making charitable contributions, or they might not, or playing the classic "pay your family members to run your foundation and host some nice galas" tax dodge; we don't really know.

While it's great if they are indeed quietly supporting smaller causes they care about, I think there's some value in the kind of high-profile tech-focused efforts that the Gates Foundation has been working on. It gets people excited and especially for techies I think it scratches some of the "tech can change the world" / force multiplier / effective altruism itch.

Posted by AnnetteG, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 27, 2020 at 11:50 am

AnnetteG is a registered user.

well done Diana..
let's not forget about the arts.. food for the soul

Posted by Giving feels good., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 27, 2020 at 12:12 pm

Giving feels good. is a registered user.

Rich or not, giving generously of our time and treasure, restores own's own soul. It just feels good.

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