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.
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.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Share your thoughts in the comments. #superpowerforgood
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I love that you point out the disparity of free time and unpaid labor based on gender. The imbalance is so subtle in some countries or families: women’s tasks vs men’s tasks. I stopped doing anyone else’s laundry long ago, but when I worked fulltime, I still did the shopping and cooking, and most of the household chores. Now that I no longer have an outside job and am writing and editing fulltime from home, I have to be vigilant, or I end up being asked to take care of all the little things that come up, “since I’m home” and my day can quickly get so full none of my work gets done!
If I could have one super power it would be to heal people, of whatever ails them.
I am always amazed at how the entire day can slip away while I am taking care of the chores. These things have to get done sooner or later, so I figure I’ll just get them out of the way first. But there is always more to do, isn’t there? That’s when I started getting up early (before the sun) to write. (It’s paid off a bit…one of my short stories will be published in May. 🙂 )
Be vigilant. Protect your time!
Congratulations on the story getting accepted, Jackie! 😀
Thanks, Cynthia. I hope I’ll have a link to share with those interested. 🙂
As billionaire philanthropists, I appreciate Bill and Melinda’s sensitivity and altruism. As just a lowly schnook, I wouldn’t necessarily want a super power, but I would want something prety super. I recently emailed my brother (FYI: a guy who is straight, single and both cooks and cleans) that I wish there was a time travel app where I could see what my new apartment looked like in 1925 when my building first opened.
P.S. I know how to spell “pretty” … most of the time.
I’ve had the same idea! I’d like to find out who thought it was a good idea to paint the walls of my apartment avocado green. (1960s perhaps?)
Remember irregular verbs at first sight. All my problems would be solved 😉
Oui. Aller. Avoir. Parlez-vous français? 🙂
Yeah. Go on. Rub salt into my wounds why don’t you???
You’re doing all right, I think. You speak four languages better than I speak one.
Hey, congrats on getting a short story published, Jackie! That is very cool.
Superpower? I’d LOVE to time travel to meet my ancestors and to see what life was like back when.
I would like to have that superpower too. A lot of my fiction writing is historical, so it would be really great to have a first-hand account. Not nearly as much research required! 🙂
SO interesting and I’m so grateful you shared this here, which helps me stay in the know!
Thanks, Nina. I’m glad you found this information valuable.
Thanks for the link, Jackie. I am excited to check it out. John Green always presents the most interesting discussions. Superpower? I don’t know. Will have to think about it. . . your question reminds me of the animated film, The Incredibles.
Yes, The Incredibles was such a fun movie with a great message. We all have superpowers we can share with the world. 🙂
The Gates’ are doing more for the world than so many of their fellow blessed billionaires do:). Gives me hope that it’ll catch on . . .
Indeed! 🙂 Before this interview, I’d heard about their foundation, but I really didn’t know much about the kinds of programs they were implementing. I’m hopeful!