January 1, 2007

Gates and Powell Engage Journalists

Bill Gates and Colin Powell agree that the next Administration needs to increase U.S. support for global health and development. That was their central message at a recent dinner in Washington with top national journalists, organized by the Center for U.S. Global Engagement. The Center’s initiative called Impact ’08: Building a Better, Safer World is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Both Bill Gates and General Powell shared their perspectives on the global challenges and opportunities for the next President. Gates described how health is a key determinant of a country’s economic growth, noting that just 20 infectious diseases account for 80 percent of the wealth gap between the rich and poor worlds. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports a number of efforts to find vaccines and treatments for issues that cause widespread illness and death in developing countries, and Gates is optimistic that with the rapid innovations in science and technology, the world should be able to eliminate much of the disease burden. However, the U.S. government needs to do more to focus on improving people’s lives, working in concert with other governments, private foundations and corporations, he said.

Powell argued that the major driving force in the world today is economic and wealth creation, not military might. While the U.S. must have a very strong military, the next President should understand the changing global landscape and focus on opportunities to create wealth in the world, and in so doing to tackle the root causes of some of today’s greatest threats. America can and should double, or even triple, U.S. foreign assistance – which serves America’s interests and will make the world a better, safer place, he said.

Both men emphasized the need for the next President and Administration to lead in this area, appealing to Americans’ compassion and generosity. They believe Americans will support their leaders to increase U.S. investments in global health and development, and they said the media has an important role to play in shaping an informed and responsible debate.

Click here to see a next morning report out from one of the dinner guests, CNN’s John Roberts.