I was fortunate to get to spend an unreasonable amount of time with Bill as Microsoft’s “Apple Expert” during the rise of OSX, the iPod, and then the iPhone. This was a pretty nice gig because when I was showing him things I was never the target of his frustration or dissatisfaction, and I’d been in enough product reviews in roles with more personal responsibility and experienced that fire.
Because these meetings were both informational and informal, Bill relaxed over time and I got to see him with (a bit) off his guard down. I’d share two more personal of my stories.
One was when we got talking about the philanthropy sections in the Rockefeller biography I’d just read (Titan, highly recommended). He was super passionate about lessons from his accomplishments with medicine in the south and the University of Chicago. Notably, his work reinvented medical education for a whole new generation of doctors in the US just in time to have a huge impact on the 1918 flu pandemic. I could tell he’d really thought about it deeply and was taking lessons from it. This was while he was still CEO of Microsoft – no small job.
The other was a really heartfelt conversation about my son’s recent seizure. We’d gone to Children’s hospital and stayed in the Mary Gates building. He shared some personal connections to Teddy’s seizure story and was really proud of “his mom’s” philanthropy and his continuing support of it.
The right-wing craziness around Bill generated because he’s dared to disagree with Donald Trump is offensive, insane, and obscene. Few of his peers have put the thought and time that Bill (and Rockefeller) have put into their philanthropies to make sure the money is used well and leveraged. Not Allen, not Jobs, not Ellison, not anyone I can think of. He’s done so much so thoughtfully that Warren Buffet has chosen to just leverage it to put his own vast fortune to work rather than try to build a parallel organization.
This is a crisis that Bill worried about for years, and much of the infrastructure that’s helping us deal with it came because of him. The models from the UW everyone is relying on, the new vaccine technologies that will get us something in 18 months instead of much longer…he had a hand in all of them. He’s now going to “waste” billions building multiple production facilities to further shorten the time. Microsoft was the first major employer to send employees home – credited with a lot of our success in Seattle? Hmmm, what an odd coincidence.
He’s planful, methodical, and well informed and we may all look back in a few years and remember his contribution before and during this crisis as more important than his founding and establishment of Microsoft. It’s a (sadly predictable) pity our leadership is choosing to treat him as an embarrassing PR foil to distract from their own inadequacies instead of an invaluable resource.