It is frequently said that good thinkers are born, not made. Although there is an element of truth to that statement, the idea is essentially false (Ruggiero, 2009). The one thing though that everyone can agree to; is the world would has become the product of the efforts, accomplishments, and even failures of men and women everywhere. More specifically, the men and women whose ideas helped shape the world what it is today. Of course that does not mean that every great thinker contributed in a positive way. But the ones who did, and still are, will continue to make this world worth living in. Two very notable men, in recent history, have contributed to society in a variety of ways. One of which is still alive and continuing to do great things even today. Those men are Martin Luther King Jr. and Bill Gates. Martin Luther King Jr. has now been dead longer than he was alive. But in the short time he was alive he lived an extraordinary life (“The Seattle Times”, 2011). He was a Baptist minister and social activist who played a key role in the equal rights movement from the mid-1950’s until his assassination in 1968. He was the driving force behind watershed events that ultimately led to landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (History Learning Site, 2013). Bill Gates, a man of great wealth and relentless intellect, will one day be remembered as the greatest philanthropist of his generation. Many would leap to the conclusion that Gates will one day be recognized as the most important person of his generation because for over 15 years he was the richest person in the world. Such achievements, however, will likely seem small in the scope of history.
There will come a day when many fortunes dwarf the Gates fortune, making the accumulation of his wealth small and less meaningful (Thorpe, 2012). With his wife Melinda at his side, the two have created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. From poverty to health, to education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focuses on offering the opportunity to dramatically improve the quality of life for billions of people around the world (Gates Foundation, 2013). Each of these two men came from very humble beginnings. Both men were also intellectually gifted in their own right. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up during a time when segregation was the norm. Through the mentorship of an influential theologian and outspoken advocate for racial equality, Martin Luther King Jr. was groomed and encouraged to question the political and social environment around him. This kind free thought and creativity greatly contributed to his accomplishments later in life. Bill Gates grew up in a family that instilled the values of volunteerism and civic engagement. His family strongly believed that “if life happens to bless you, you should use those gifts as well and as wisely as you can” (Gates Foundation, 2013). The very same core values Bill Gates was raised with, contributed to the kind of ideas that drives his philanthropist foundation today. Nearly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans in Southern states still inhabited a starkly unequal world of disenfranchisement, segregation, and various forms of oppression, including race-inspired violence (History Learning Site, 2013). Martin Luther King grew tired of living in a world that would rather judge a person based on the color of their skin, rather than his or her own character. He wanted equality for all mankind, not just for African Americans, but also for everyone. Bill Gates recognized that there were billions of people around the world that desperately needed assistance for the most basic of needs. He saw that people were dying just because they did not have access to simple medical care. Bill Gates believed all lives have equal value. His goal was to find solutions for people with urgent needs, wherever they lived and tackling tough challenges like: extreme poverty, poor health, and the failures of the American education system. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I had come to see early that the Christian doctrine operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available.” He quickly recognized and understood the significance of using the very same nonviolent tactics Mahatma Gandhi used, could also be used to support his cause for equality in America.
Boycotts, peaceful marches that promoted nonviolent protests, and meeting with various activists, religious and political leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. was able to implement his ideas on a nationwide level. Bill Gates is famous for once asking other billionaires to commit to giving away half of their fortunes to charity (Thorpe, 2012). It is an idea that he himself has committed, and has helped create the largest private charity foundation in the world that has contributed over $15 billion dollars in global health alone. Working closely with community leaders around the world, Bill Gates focuses on the biggest barriers that prevent people from being able to make the most out of their lives. He funds innovative ideas that could help remove these barriers: new techniques to help farmers in developing countries grow more food and earn more money; new tools to prevent and treat deadly diseases; new methods to help students and teachers in the classroom. Although Martin Luther King Jr. and Bill Gates pursued different objectives to help people and their communities, they both shared a common goal, which was equality for all. Not having to look very hard, both men recognized that there was an issue that needed to be resolved. Martin Luther King recognized equal rights for everyone, not just African Americans, was a God given right all men and women should have. Bill Gates recognized human beings deserved the right to live a healthy and productive life. Both men were able to articulate and express their problem or issue and inspire others to join them. Martin Luther King probably expressed his situation with something along the lines of, “ How or what can I do differently and effectively to change the way people think about one another?” Whereas Bill Gates probably expressed his situation with something like, “How can I ensure equality for all mankind?” Martin Luther King found that utilizing the very same methodology as Mahatma Gandhi, he could promote the very same nonviolent methods for his cause. Bill Gates also sought out the help from people around the world. In his case, he would work closely with world leaders for creative solutions to their country’s economic and health problems. As history shows, the use of boycotts and peaceful marches by Martin Luther King were the actions he ultimately decided to take to make his statements.
Those very same statements would eventually have a lasting effect on the United States in the years to come after his assassination. Bill Gates on the other hand, knowingly understands and expects some of the projects, which are funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to fail. And that is okay with him. As a philanthropist, Bill Gates knows his role is to make bets on promising solutions that government and businesses cannot afford to make. As he continues to learn which bets pay off, he adjusts his strategies and shares the results so everyone can benefit (Gates Foundation, 2013). Looking back, it is easy to see how these two men will always have a lasting effect for many generations to come. Their contributions to society are undoubtedly remarkable accomplishments. That is not to say that mistakes were not made along their quest for their own version of equality. But somewhere along the way, they figured out what works best for each of them. It is unfortunate that Martin Luther King Jr. did not have the opportunity to finish is life’s work. However, his legacy will continue to empower others. And one can only hope that the goodwill and hard work that Bill Gates continues to endure will inspire others to help out others with lesser means in their own way.