MICHELE NORRIS, host:
On Mondays, we bring you our revival of the radio series This I Believe. Today our essay comes from Bill Gates, the chairman and founder of Microsoft. Gates is the world's wealthiest man. He and his wife Melinda have endowed their foundation with more than $28 billion to aid global health and learning. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON reporting:
Bill Gates began programming computers when he was 13 years old, and it was at that point that his belief in the power of personal computing began to develop. It has not wavered. In the domains of business, education, health and social reform, Gates is known for his ambition and hard-driving pursuit of his goals, which are the natural extension of his beliefs and his hopes for the future. Here's Bill Gates with his essay for This I Believe.
I've always been an optimist, and I suppose that is rooted in my belief that the power of creativity and intelligence can make the world a better place. For as long as I can remember, I've loved learning new things and solving problems. So when I sat down at a computer for the first time in seventh grade, I was hooked. It was a clunky old Teletype machine, and it could barely do anything compared to the computers we have today, but it changed my life.
When my friend Paul Allen and I started Microsoft 30 years ago, we had a vision of a computer on every desk and in every home, which probably sounded a little too optimistic at a time when most computers were the size of refrigerators. But we believed that personal computers would change the world, and they have. And after 30 years, I'm still as inspired by computers as I was back in seventh grade.
I believe that computers are the most incredible tool we can use to feed our curiosity and inventiveness, to help us solve problems that even the smartest people couldn't solve on their own. Computers have transformed how we learn, giving kids everywhere a window into all of the world's knowledge. They're helping us build communities around the things we care about and to stay close to the people who are important to us no matter where they are.
Like my friend Warren Buffett, I feel particularly lucky to do something every day that I love to do. He calls it tap-dancing to work. My job at Microsoft is as challenging as ever, but what makes me tap-dance to work is when we show people something new, like a computer that can recognize your handwriting or your speech, or one that can store a lifetime's worth of photos, and they say, `I didn't know you could do that with a PC.'
But for all the cool things that a person can do with a PC, there are lots of other ways we can put our creativity and intelligence to work to improve our world. There are still far too many people in the world whose basic needs go unmet. Every year, for example, millions of people die from diseases that are easy to prevent or treat in the developed world. I believe that my own good fortune brings with it a responsibility to give back to the world. My wife Melinda and I have committed to improving health and education in a way that can help as many people as possible. As a father, I believe that the death of a child in Africa is no less poignant or tragic than the death of a child anywhere else, and that it doesn't take much to make an immense difference in these children's lives.
I'm still very much an optimist, and I believe that progress on even the world's toughest problems is possible, and it's happening every day. We're seeing new drugs for deadly diseases, new diagnostic tools and new attention paid to the health problems in the developing world. I'm excited by the possibilities I see for medicine, for education and, of course, for technology. And I believe that through our natural inventiveness, creativity and willingness to solve tough problems, we're going to make some amazing achievements in all these areas in my lifetime.
ALLISON: Bill Gates with his essay for This I Believe, recorded in his offices in Redmond, Washington. If you would like to reflect on your personal belief in three minutes, please visit or Web site, npr.org, to see guidelines and to hear all the essays in our series. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.
NORRIS: Next Monday on "Morning Edition," a This I Believe essay from immigrants rights activist Cecilia Munoz.