I love Father’s Day because it is a reminder of how much being a father has shaped my life.
One of those defining moments happened about 20 years ago. After reading an article that explained that millions of children were dying in poor countries from preventable diseases, my son, Bill, sent me a copy of it with a note that said: “Dad, maybe we can do something about this.” Since then, I have dedicated my life to global issues I spent most of my career knowing nothing about.
When we started out in philanthropy, Bill, Melinda, and I had a lot to learn. We wanted to know about the biggest inequities in the world, and how we could use our resources in a meaningful way to address them.
Fortunately, we found partners that have been working on global issues for a long time, and there are very smart people who knew a whole lot more than we did. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with two of our longstanding partners: Rotary and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
In the early spring, I was invited to speak at a Rotary conference. I am member of the Seattle Four club, and it was an honor to speak to my fellow Rotarians. My message to them was one of optimism: that, in a world where we hear a lot of bad news, there is spectacular work happening that helps a lot of people.
One example of that good news is that India – a country long considered the toughest place to eliminate polio – is now polio free. Rotary has been on the front lines in the fight against polio for decades.
I also spoke at the 15 year anniversary celebration of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, which is located at Johns Hopkins. The vision behind the Gates Institute is that when women can plan their pregnancies, they trigger a virtuous cycle that leads to better lives for generations to come. In just a decade and a half, the Gates Institute has helped reinvigorate the field of family planning, and they are helping make the goal of universal, voluntary access to family planning a reality.
It was a privilege to be asked to speak at both events, but I feel like I received the better end of the deal. I had the chance to be surrounded by hundreds of men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping others.
Being in that company reminds me that – in the words of my son – we can do something about this. I know because the ‘we’ in that statement is made up of a vast network of partners like Rotary and the Gates Institute, and many others, who are working very hard to make this world better for everyone.
The fact that I have spent the last two decades working with these partners is a truly meaningful Father’s Day present and the best one I've ever gotten. Thank you, Bill and Melinda, for everything you’ve done.