On Tuesday, I watched a live YouTube chat in which author John Green interviewed Bill and Melinda Gates.

Bill and Melinda kicked off the session by talking about their recent visit to Kentucky where a high school student asked, “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?”

They answered in their annual letter.

The superpower question was our favorite.

To fly. To be invisible. To travel through time. All good options.

“More time!”

“More energy!”

When we sat down to write this year’s letter, those answers stuck with us. Sure, everyone wants more time and energy. But they mean one thing in rich countries and something else entirely when looked at through the eyes of the world’s poorest families.

More time. More energy. As superpowers go, they may not be as exciting as Superman’s ability to defy gravity. But if the world can put more of both into the hands of the poorest, we believe it will allow millions of dreams to take flight.

Bill’s answer—energy—is a double-edged sword. About 1.3 billion (billion!), or 18 percent of the world’s population, do not have easy or reliable access to a source of energy. But it also needs to be a cheap, clean source of energy. He says, “If you could pick just one thing to lower the price to reduce poverty, by far, you would pick energy…Investing in ways to make energy cleaner and universally available is the most important investment we can make.”

Melinda’s answer—time—highlights the gender gap. In every part of the world women spend more time on unpaid work (household chores, caring for children, etc.) than men do, and in some areas that disparity is enormous. For example, in South Asia women  spend 5-1/2 hours per day on unpaid work while men spend 1/2 hour per day. It’s the disparity that can reinforce poverty, leaving girls with much less time for studying or generating income of their own.


Here is the full letter (with interesting video clips) and watch John Green’s Q&A with Bill and Melinda below.


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_19Y5hXkKg&w=560&h=315]


If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Share your thoughts in the comments. #superpowerforgood

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