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Bill Gates, the Philanthropist

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Being the richest man on earth comes with a baggage. For one, you become the most admired, or the most reviled, or both. Looking the his early pictures, when Microsoft was just taking shape, it's hard to believe that the scrawny kid made it all the way to the top and had so much staying power.

No matter what one might think of him, he was probably the most instrumental character in bringing information technology out of the shadows and making it into the giant industry that it is today. No, Microsoft, didn’t single-handedly create the markets and the products, but it coaxed plenty of companies to compete with it and benefited all of us in the process.

Plenty of us owe our livelihood to Microsoft, myself included. For people like me, having a career in technology is perhaps the most obvious benefit, but anywhere in the world a document is created, a Web page is viewed, or a chart is generated on a spreadsheet, Microsoft has had a direct or indirect effect. For that I am thankful.

But it seems like there was a lot more to Bill Gates than just creating the world's largest software company. Many wealthy people become philanthropists as a PR move, but I think Bill Gates gets a genuine kick out of this type of work. Perhaps being the largest philanthropic organization in the world can be a source of great pride and can motivate one to push even harder. But even if his motives have a selfish side, it can not be denied that many people are benefiting from his good work.

At the time when so many company bosses are tangled in legal mess arising from their own greed and hubris, it's refreshing to see someone using his money and power to help others. His decision to leave Microsoft in the next couple of years and enmesh himself in his charitable work should not be overlooked by business schools to make a point. It is possible to be rich, powerful, and sometimes mean and vicious in the business world, and still be the right role model to many who wish to be like him.
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