The Money Charity

Bill Gates announced that he will transition out of his day-to-day role at Microsoft by July 2008 in order to spend more time working on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global health and education.

His announcement reminded us of the plethora of graduation speeches that eager students imbibed across the land this spring. As we listened to the meritorious goals heaped on the recent graduates, so they might achieve goals the speaker’s generation has found impossible, we could not help but think, why doesn’t somebody come out and tell the youthful aspirants what the real challenge is?

Like it or not, today’s world, as well as many another age, is conducted by two primary forces: wealth and power, and, other than resort to firearms, power springs from wealth.

So if you need to influence the ways of this outrageously necessitous world, consider the stark truth that all power springs from the opening in a fat wallet. It is named the economic basis of society but, in its current incarnation, in debilitating excess.

When we were recent graduates, we weren’t aware of such an uncompromising reality and passed up at least two opportunities to make megabucks because we wanted to preserve our mental energy to expend it toward the achievement of our ideals.

Had we been wiser, we would have set aside a few years to stuff our pockets with power and then, like Mr. Gates, have spent the rest of our days placidly pursuing those still-inspiriting ideals.

So we find ourselves, from our own experience, in the unlikely role of advising the most idealistic to enable their altruism by involving themselves, initially, in the activity they undoubtedly are convinced isn’t the most inviting.

Then, should you be fortunate enough to enable your financial independence, you may, like Mr. Gates, head off into full-time devotion to your undoubtedly meritorious idealisms.

Well, the speech probably wouldn’t have been one that would have inspired the administration to invite us back or that the students would have received with endorsement, but the sharp glass on the road through economic necessity is a fact not lightly to be dismissed. Ignore it and you may step on it with painful frequency.