One-on-One with Bill Gates

JENNINGS: You are paid a great compliment once, when someone said, "You feel a death in Africa as if it were a death in the world." A, is that true? And B are the rest of us missing something?

GATES: Well I think most people are kind of overwhelmed with the statistics. You know that you hear a million people die of Malaria, several million people die of AIDS, and its hard to relate to. Whereas if you knew just one family, and saw what was happening there, you could understand that those children have joy and opportunity, just like your children do. Then it would be easier to relate to. And so for me, you know I study the statistics, but I also have to go over there and have that direct connection to really renew my belief that every life should be treated on an equal basis.

JENNINGS: What have you learned about the value of private money?

GATES: Well private money can take risks in a way that government money often isn't willing to. For example, take the creation of a vaccine that will eliminate AIDS as a problem or Malaria -- that's been vastly under-funded and we need to change that. Governments didn't want to try something that could be a failure.

JENNINGS: You are so well known that I think people expect you to be good at almost everything. Are you good at almost everything?

GATES: No -- absolutely not. My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things. From a very young age I thought software was magical, I thought if I just really focused on that and hired great people that we could change the world through the tool that software has now become. And so you know, I picked just a very few things. I think that's the only way I can make a difference.

JENNINGS: Is there anything you're notoriously bad at?

GATES: Oh my wife thinks she's better at me than puzzles. I haven't given in on that one yet. I don't get to do a lot of sports. I do a few -- some tennis, and golf, but you know, I'm mostly known for my work in software and now a tiny bit for the foundation work.

JENNINGS: Can you play an instrument?

GATES: I'm very embarrassed. I played a bit when I was young and I'm not good at musical instrument. I meet people overseas that know five languages -- that the only language I'm comfortable in is English. Those are things that I'd like to get around to but I haven't been able to.

JENNINGS: Can you write?

GATES: I like to think I can write. I have a few books that sold fairly well and I think putting your thoughts on paper is very, very important. In my work at Microsoft there've been a number of very key memos. For example, one that kicked off our focus on the Internet that's still pretty famous called "Internet Tidalwave." Three years ago is when I wrote the memo getting us focused on these security problems, making sure that we had breakthroughs that would avoid that holding the field back.

JENNINGS: Did you ever envision, and is it difficult to live life in the stratosphere as you do at such an early age?

GATES: Well, my company was pretty small when I was in my 20s. The success of Microsoft has really been in the last 15 years or so. I think it is tough to have success at a young age. I've tried to limit the distortive effect that that has. I think that having kids helps a lot with that. Just staying very focused on the problems people have.

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