The Influencers

The Philanthropist and the Editor

Bill Gates tells Nancy Gibbs why he's optimistic about the future

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Bill Gates knows his way around the cover of TIME. He first appeared on the magazine’s cover in April 1984, wearing a no-joke pair of glasses and balancing a 5 1/4 inch floppy disk on his index finger. In the years since, the Microsoft founder went on to become the world’s richest person and was recognized as TIME’s Person of the Year, along with his wife and fellow philanthropist Melinda Gates and U2’s Bono in 2005.

But Gates’ involvement in the Jan. 15 issue of TIME marked new territory for the philanthropist and for the magazine. Gates served as guest editor, a first in TIME’s 94-year history. Working with TIME’s editors through the fall and winter of 2017, Gates designed an issue around the theme of optimism — an unexpected topic for this era of divisiveness and inequality as well as for a man whose day job at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation involves confronting some of the world’s most difficult problems.

In this conversation, the latest installment of the TIME series Influencers, Gates is joined by Nancy Gibbs, who is the former editor of TIME, historian and author of more TIME cover stories than anyone in history. Gibbs, who spoke at Harvard in November about the media’s failures to focus on what’s improving, asked Gates why he thinks journalists have a bias against the positive. “News by its nature is about a surprise,” Gates says. “Which day do you cover malaria deaths being cut in half? Which day do you cover workplace accidents down by a factor of 50 over the 50-year period? It’s society doing what it’s supposed to do.”

The pair talked about what makes them hopeful.

—Samuel P. Jacobs

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