How does someone who is seemingly so private and averse to publicity come across effectively on a prominent television news program like 60 Minutes? I watched Melinda Gates in awe on Sunday night as she passionately described the work she and her husband Bill are doing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. While I’ve seen her in photographs, I’ve never heard her speak in public. I was impressed by her skills and inspired by her message.
As a passionate spokesperson for the poorest of the poor in India, the undereducated in the struggling US educational system, and those deeply ill with malaria and polio, her message is clear: We can solve these problems if we have good research and data on past successes and if we spend money and take concerted action.
What makes Melinda Gates such a compelling figure? Is it her concrete approach? Her decision making based on facts? Her fierce compassion for the deeply disenfranchised of the world? It’s all those things and more.
In a society where political language has labeled many of our most challenging social problems “unsolvable,” or too expensive, or too complicated, here we have Melinda
Gates telling us that these challenges are doable and that it’s our responsibility to find solutions that work. The Gates foundation is committed to demonstrating results, and you can see in her eyes that Melinda Gates accepts nothing less.
In a world filled with apathy, disinterest and insurmountable problems that are too big to solve by some standards, here we have someone solving them with great skill, determination and clarity of vision.
Her strength and compassion are fierce. She presents herself as practical, certain and confident. She shows us with her language and body, with her face and voice, that she believes in her mission and will succeed. That kind of personal power is compelling; it makes us believe in a better world.
I was impressed with her style, her unyielding certainty, her vision for what can change, her recounting of what has changed, the scorecard she keeps, and her critical, fact-based decision making. These are the “touch points” that make her argument believable and persuasive. It is not the billions of dollars that are being used for this campaign that will make her goals reality—it is the drive and focus of this woman and her vision of what can be better that will make it happen.
There are certainly many strong and compelling role models in our world today—men and women doing courageous, altruistic and uplifting acts. And then there is Melinda Gates, who is setting a new standard for what is right and just in the world.