When the Very Rich Refuse Compromise
Yesterday, an American billionaire pushed the international cycle of public dialogue because of his unprecedented refusal to follow traditional norms with regards to management and disbursement of his extreme wealth. In fact, accounts of his stubborn refusal to play by the rules dominated headlines, as many other important news items went largely unnoticed. Very rich people can turn the conversation that way.
Over the years, this billionaire has maintained a somewhat checkered relationship with the Washington DC power structure. He was the focus of a massive anti-trust effort in 1998, as the Department of Justice sought to dismantle the huge company that he had built. During this time, his name became synonymous with selfish ego-driven ambition, over-the-top wealth and unchecked greed.
But almost 20 years have passed since then and times have changed significantly. In November of 2016, this figure enjoyed a very special visit with Barack Obama in the White House. During this visit, it became very apparent that despite past differences, these two men were very respectful of each other’s significant accomplishments.
Of course, the high-dollar individual I am referring to in this column is Bill Gates, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor shortly before Thanksgiving. This prestigious award foreshadowed the December 12 announcement of his billion dollar clean energy fund. In 2016, the world is lucky to have a few billionaires like him who have a moral and financial commitment to radically improving international affairs.
Hugh Forrest tries to write four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts generally cover technology-related trends. When not attempting to wordsmith, he serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW in Austin.