To replace the remaining issues of my subscription to the now-defunct Business 2.0 Magazine I was given a subscription to Fortune. Surprisingly, I really like it. I learned about this sick web based golf game, and more importantly I was able to take a lot away from their amazing article on Melinda Gates – her first ever profile in a major magazine.
We all knew that she was one of the worlds largest philanthropists, and that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does great things for the world. After reading the article, she comes across as what we should all aspire to be if we’re lucky enough to have wealth and power. Her and Bill are giving away OVER 95% of their money to help make the world a better place.
A couple of my favorite passages:
If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped. – Melinda Gates, valedictory speech, Ursuline Academy, 1982
Her close friend Charlotte Guyman, a retired Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft executive who is now on Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway board, recalls a trip to Calcutta in 2004. One day, when Melinda had foundation meetings to attend, Guyman and a few in their group spent a half-day at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying. There, they were captivated by one young woman suffering from AIDS and tuberculosis who was “just bones,” Guyman says. No one could break the woman’s zombie-like stare. The next day Melinda visited. “Melinda walks in, pauses, and goes right over to this young woman,” Guyman recalls. “She pulls up a chair, puts the woman’s hand in her hands. The woman won’t look at her. Then Melinda says, ‘You have AIDS. It’s not your fault.’ She says it again: ‘It’s not your fault.’ Tears stream down the woman’s face, and she looks at Melinda.” Guyman can’t forget the connection. “Melinda sat with her. It seemed like forever.”
“My fatal flaw?” Melinda says, laughing, during our third and final interview. She sometimes wishes for a simpler life, she admits. “It depends when you catch me. Most days, no. But if you’d asked me yesterday if I would like a much simpler life, I would have told you yes.”
Even Melinda has days that she doesn’t want to have to live up to the responsibilities of the foundation. We all have our issues, and unfortunately it seems like too many people walk around saying to themselves “how do I get X” instead of “how do I use my talents to help someone else”. If we all let our problems dominate our thoughts, we’ll never make the effort to help those around us. Melinda is one of those special people who sees through the BS that encapsulates most people. I can’t imagine a person I’d rather see have the wealth that she does.
Not exactly what I expected from Fortune. Maybe I’ll actually renew this subscription.