The richest man in the world, Bill Gates, and his wife, Melinda, were named Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” along with U2 frontman Bono for being Good Samaritans who made a difference in different ways.
The three were chosen for their work in trying to find ways to eradicate such calamities as malaria in Africa, HIV and AIDS and the poverty that kills 8 million people a year, said James Kelly, Time managing editor. The magazine’s Dec. 19 issue comes out today (Dec. 19).
Time also named former U.S. Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton as “Partners of the Year” for their humanitarian efforts after the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, and the unlikely friendship that developed from that work.
“Natural disasters are terrible things, but what defines us is not what happens to us, but how we react to it,” Kelly said “When you look at the number of people who die from the kind of diseases and poverty that the Gateses and Bono are fighting, the death tolls are far greater than what occurs in natural disasters or wars.”
An unlikely alliance has emerged from Bono and the Gates’ interest in aiding the poorest of the poor, after the three met for dinner in 2002, Time reported.
Bill Gates, the founder of computer software giant Microsoft Corp., told Time that he was not sure at first it would be worth his while to meet with Bono. “World health is immensely complicated. It doesn’t really boil down to a ‘Let’s be nice’ analysis. So I thought a meeting wouldn’t be all that valuable,” Gates told Time, adding that he quickly changed his mind. “He really reads this stuff; he cares about the complexity.”
Bono said that Gates’ reputation for business savvy was a plus. “When an Irish rock star starts talking about it, people go, yeah, you’re paid to be indulged and have these ideas. But when Bill Gates says you can fix malaria in 10 years, they know he’s done a few spreadsheets,” Bono told Time.
The Gates Foundation funds hundreds of projects around the world primarily focused on public health, from vaccinating children to developing new drugs, as well as educational programs and scholarships in the United States and elsewhere.
Bono and fellow musician Bob Geldof spearheaded a popular campaign to tackle poverty in Africa by canceling the debts of the poorest countries in the world, raising global awareness through the Live 8 concerts in July.
Partly due to popular pressure, the world’s industrialized nations agreed in July to double annual aid to poor countries over the next five years to around $100 billion in 2010, and to cancel poor countries’ debt.
Bono said he was humbled by being named a Time Person of the Year. “There are a lot of people who could be here. What’s really key is, all of us are in agreement that this can be a generation that can end extreme poverty. And by that we mean stupid, daft poverty where 3,000 kids are dying every day of a mosquito bite in Africa. Malaria,” he said on U2’s Web site.
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