This afternoon (Friday, April 3), Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the Gates Foundation, and Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, will discuss how the world is responding to and changing with COVID-19 on Sal’s Daily Homeroom. Their conversation, which takes place LIVE at 12:00 pm PT / 3:00 pm ET on Facebook and Youtube, may be one of the more intelligent and uplifting perspectives on this pandemic that I’ve seen in a while. While neither one is a doctor, they are both highly intelligent, visionary, and optimistic people. So I think they can make valuable contributions to our national debate on this issue.
Now, I’ll confess: I don’t like Bill Gates’ software (I’m a confirmed Apple girl myself). But I respect the drive, intellect, and deep understanding he put into developing the most prevalent software on the planet. I also respect that he stepped away from the company at a relatively young age to establish, along with his wife, the world’s largest privately-owned foundation (believed to have more than $40 billion in assets). The foundation has long been focused on education, on public health, and in reducing inequality between rich and poor nations–all noble endeavors in my mind.
Gates brings a focus on data, which is very valuable during a time with great fears and great unknowns. And he brings a longer perspective to this than many. Back in 2015, shortly after the breakout of Ebola, Gates delivered a TED talk where he talked about how the world wasn’t ready for the next epidemic and what we needed to do to prepare for the next great global disease:
We should have been listening to him back then. Once we are over the worst of this, I hope we will listen to him to prevent a recurrence of such worldwide devastation.
Earlier this week, Gates wrote an opinion piece on the Washington Post about what we should be doing now. It made a lot of sense to me. He promotes a steady, consistent process for battling the virus based on facts and proven medical procedures. I also like his reminder that we can’t just focus on the virus issues in the US. This is a global pandemic, and even if we can eradicate it in our country, we aren’t really safe until it is eradicated in all countries.
That approach isn’t going to be cheap, and Gates argues that it is unreasonable for private companies to be shouldering the costs and the risks of finding a vaccine. He advocates that this is exactly the kind of thing the federal government should be taking on. And while he doesn’t say this, the implication is that some of the deep pockets of the Gates Foundation will assist in overcoming this problem. Already the Foundation has given around $4 million to support K-12 in developing online education and in providing food to students in the federal school lunch program, and to assist low-income college students who find themselves homeless and/or jobless after the closing of their college campuses. I suspect that will be just a drop in the bucket of the money the Gate Foundation may end up spending on an international basis.
Add to that the delightful Sal Khan, founder of the free public online learning service, Khan Academy. Since he left his lucrative Wall Street job to produce free educational videos available to anyone in the world who wants to learn, Khan has been instrumental in providing a comprehensive online educational resources that probably millions of people are relying upon during this time of school closures.
Khan Academy is a lot like its founder–kind of geeky, without a lot of bells and whistles, but a lot of good, solid content and an inspirational, even transformational of educating the planet. I think the man himself is a delight. For example, at 2012 graduation services at Rice University, he encourages everyone to do something to increase the net happiness in the world. If everyone would do that, he states, our world would be transformed.
So I, at least, look forward to seeing what these two intelligent and forward-looking optimists have to say about how we can work together to overcome this international problem.
The session just ended, and I did think it was honest, informative, and hopeful, just as I expected. If you missed it, you can watch the video: