This year’s annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — their 10th such correspondence with the world — takes an unusual approach. Rather than simply touting the organization’s achievements, it answers “10 tough questions that we get asked,” essentially walking into the metaphorical punch offered by critics and observers of the planet’s wealthiest foundation.
That includes queries into the $40 billion foundation’s impact on U.S. education, whether they’re imposing their values on other cultures through global giving, and if it’s fair that they have so much influence due to their tremendous wealth.
The 13-page letter from Bill and Melinda, out today, begins with a defense of their optimistic outlook that the world is getting better, while some might argue that growing climate change, massive refugee crises and uncertainty around the Trump administration suggest otherwise.
Being an optimist “isn’t about knowing that life used to be worse. It’s about knowing how life can get better,” the Gateses write. “And that’s what really fuels our optimism.”
The Gates Foundation reports spending about $4.5 billion a year, consisting of $500 million in the United States, primarily on educational programs; and $4 billion towards global health, agriculture and other efforts in developing countries. Throughout the letter, the Gateses address with some humility the evolution of their philanthropic strategies, and Melinda repeatedly raises the importance of women’s empowerment.
In response to the question: “What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?” Bill answers, “A lot, but not as much as either of us would like.”
In terms of education, the Gates Foundation primarily targets high school-related endeavors, and also supports early learning and postsecondary education. The letter recounts lessons learned and missteps, and notes that newer initiatives focus on helping U.S. middle and high schools “develop and implement their own strategies for …read more