Wednesday, 18 December 2019

offered to sell them software.

offered to sell them software.

I worried that they would realize I was just a

student in a dorm and hang up on me.Instead they said: “We’re not quite ready,

come see us in a month,” which was a goodthing, because we hadn’t written the

software yet.From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra

credit project that markedthe end of my college education and the beginning of

a remarkable journey with Microsoft.What I remember above all about Harvard

was being in the midst of so much energy and intelligence.It could be

exhilarating, intimidating, sometimes even discouraging, but always

challenging.It was an amazing privilege – and though I left early, I was

transformed by my yearsat Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I

worked on.But taking a serious look back … I do have one big regret.I left

Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the

appallingdisparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn

millions of people to lives ofdespair.I learned a lot here at Harvard about

new ideas in economics and politics.I got great exposure to the advances being

made in the sciences.But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its

discoveries – but in how those discoveriesare applied to reduce

inequity.Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health

care, or broad economic opportunity– reducing inequity is the highest human

achievement.I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people

cheated out of educationalopportunities here in this country.And I knew

nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and

diseasein developing countries.It took me decades to find out.You graduates

came to Harvard at a different time.You know more about the world’s inequities

than the classes that came before.In your years here, I hope you’ve had a

chance to think about how – in this ageof accelerating technology – we can

finally take on these inequities, and we can solvethem.Imagine, just for the

sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a fewdollars a month

to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money whereit

would have the greatest impactin saving and improving lives.Where would you

spend it?For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the

most good for thegreatest number with the resources we have.During our

discussions on this question, Melinda and I read an article about the millions

ofchildren who were dying every year in poor countries from diseases that we

had long agomade harmless in this country.Measles, malaria, pneumonia,

hepatitis B, yellow fever.One disease I had never even heard of, rotavirus,

was killing half a million kids each year– none of them in the United

States.We were shocked.We had just assumed that if millions of children were

dying and they could be saved, the worldwould make it a priority to discover

and deliver the medicines to save them.But it did not.For under a dollar,

there were interventions that could save lives that just weren’tbeing

delivered.If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to

learn that some livesare seen as worth saving and others are not.We said to

ourselves: “This can’t be true.But if it is true, it deserves to be the

priority of our giving.”So we began our work in the same way anyone here would

begin it.We asked: “How could the world let these children die?”The answer is

simple, and harsh.The market did not reward saving the lives of these

children, and governments did notsubsidize it.So the children died because