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Lin-Manuel Miranda Asks Bill and Melinda Gates Tough Questions at Hunter

huntergates.jpg(L-R) Bill Gates, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, Lin-Manuel Miranda, & Melinda Gates

By Lydia Liebman

Recently, Hunter College hosted an exciting and informative Q&A with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and philanthropist power couple Bill and Melinda Gates. The lively discussion was held at the Kaye Theater at Hunter with a full house of excited students present. Hunter College president Jennifer Raab gave a glowing introduction to the event stating that their work aligns with Hunter's goals. "We believe as you do, Bill and Melinda, that society can level the playing field through education," said Raab. Miranda, a Hunter High School graduate, asked Bill and Melinda an array of questions from Hunter College students, audience members, those watching live on Facebook and even Mark Zuckerberg. Throughout the wide-ranging interview, the Gates' answered questions that ranged from personal to policy.

In the early part of the program, Ms. Gates spoke of the importance of education. She said: "...when you get a good education in the United States, it changes the trajectory of your life. We want to make sure students in this country have a chance." The Gates' focus much of their philanthropic efforts around education. They currently contribute over a half a billion dollars to this cause yearly.

In addition to their work bettering education, the Gates' are passionate about improving global health. When asked what advice he could offer to a future entrepreneur, Mr. Gates stressed the importance and necessity of innovation in science and programming. "We need better tools to cure these diseases," he said, adding that with the rising cost of healthcare, the only solution is innovation. Other questions were more specific; Ms. Gates was asked how to promote sound birth control choices in Africa without being seen as a second-wave colonialist. In her answer, Ms. Gates explained the importance of educating women about their body and choices in cultural and local contexts. She explained that the Gates Foundation works only with local partners in these communities.

Other questions focused on the future of technology. "What do you think will happen to human civilization with further development in Artifical Intelligence technology?" asked Miranda, on behalf of one of the audience members. "AI will bring us immense productivity," Gates responded before elaborating that AI will help fill in the gaps in industries that are experiencing worker shortages.

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises was a question from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. By way of a Facebook live stream, Zuckerberg asked Mr. Gates: "if you could go back and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?" Mr. Gates said, "...know that it takes many skill sets on a team to solve some problems. Smartness alone doesn't solve everything."

Bill and Melinda Gates spoke at length about the Trump administration and did not hold back their criticism of the president's proposed budget that slashes foreign aid. Mr. Gates pointed out that the biggest increase in global aid was during another Republican administration; that of President George W. Bush. Now, following a steady increase of global aid during the Obama administation, this kind of aid is, in the words of Mr. Gates, under attack. He went on to explain that even a ten percent cut would mean 5 million deaths over the next decade. Current spending for global aid is less than one percent of the entire US budget. "It makes absolutely no sense to us," said Ms. Gates of the cuts. She went on to say that stability in Africa is indeed an essential part of the America First ideology; the lowered risk of a health crisis is beneficial for Americans (and all people of the world).

The dynamic conversation at Hunter College came on the heels of the release of the Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter. In their tenth annual letter, the Gates' answered ten questions that relate to their philanthropic work and ideology.#

The 2018 Annual Letter can be read here: gatesnotes.com/2018-Annual-Letter.

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