On February 13, Hunter College’s Assembly Hall was packed to the brim as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates graced the stage in order to discuss the Gates’ 10th annual letter. After Jennifer Raab, Hunter College’s President, introduced Miranda, the Hunter College alumnus got the crowd warmed up to receive the stars of the Q&A themselves and encouraged the audience to donate funds for Puerto Rico.
Miranda kicked things off with a “Why choose me to be your moderator?” that prompted Melinda to confess that they were and still are huge fans of Hamilton and its creator. They then dove straight into the heart of this year’s letter: how can Bill and Melinda have such an optimistic outlook of the world today when people like Miranda are terrified of checking Twitter every morning for the latest bad news?
Melinda said that the news is often focused on reporting the terrible happenings in the world, but when they take the time to travel around, “the progress is palpable. People are lifting themselves out of poverty, and yet I don’t think that actually makes the news a lot.” Therefore, they wish to share their knowledge and be transparent in their decision-making process for the Gates Foundation.
After Miranda asked one more question of his own about the Gates’ emphasis on children’s healthcare and education, the floor was open to audience questions, both from the student audience and the many global Facebook Live viewers. Questions were thought-provoking and drew amazing answers from Miranda and the Gates. Bill Gates stressed the importance of a college education, even while admitting it wasn’t the path he ultimately finished. “For most people, it’s probably best to stick out the four years,” he said.)
Miranda described how where is he now was beyond any of his wildest dreams. He praised audience members who shared their own philanthropic and world-changing projects. A question on theater and politics prompted Miranda to spontaneously spit verses from In the Heights, and Bill Gates touched on the possible future uses of AIs in providing during food shortages. The Gates also discussed their views on and work with family planning and contraceptives, climate change, and collaborating with others.
The panel concluded with a bit of a role reversal. Melinda asked, “What are you doing yourself to make the world a better place? How are you using your passion, your time, your energy, your brains, your money, but what can you do individually and what are you doing to make the world better?”