By Esma Mesihovic
After 27 years of marriage, Bill and Melinda Gates have announced their divorce.
In a Twitter post, they stated that they no longer believe they could “grow together as a couple” in the next phase of their lives. This news surprised me because I’ve never considered the charitable Gates foundation without acknowledging the famous Gates couple that founded it 20 years ago.
According to Forbes, Bill Gates is the fourth wealthiest person globally, and he is the co-founder of the world’s biggest software company, Microsoft. They had first met when Melinda joined Microsoft in the late 1980s. The work they did together, their shared mission and philanthropy affected millions worldwide––emphasizing their notable split.
Their foundation essentially focuses on solving problems related to education, public health and climate change. Because they both share a long-standing commitment to the foundation, I doubt that their divorce will profoundly impact their ongoing work. Yet, it will not be left entirely unscathed.
According to a New York Times article, the foundation has committed $1.75 billion so far to its COVID-19 response and played an essential role in shaping the global deal to bring vaccines to developing countries. There is still a lot of ambiguity in the situation, especially regarding the future direction the foundation will take. For example, the collective money they ordinarily donated to the foundation could potentially be redirected to other causes.
After their shocking split, the substantial majority of their assets they previously committed to the foundation may no longer be dedicated in the same fashion. However, most of the information we’re receiving to make inferences and predictions so far are statements from people like the CEO of the International Medical Corps, etc.
According to a BBC news article, Melinda has stated that working together on the foundation had strengthened their relationship. However, in other interviews, she opened up about the difficulty of navigating pandemic life and the challenge of balancing work and family life, which is most likely the case. Nevertheless, article titles like this one from The Washington Post, which read “If Bill and Melinda Gates can’t make a marriage work, what hope is there for the rest of us?,” are still here to give us semi-painful laughs at the situation.
In one of the final interviews before announcing their split, Bill Gates and Melinda talked about gender equality in the workplace, equitable distribution of vaccines and the role of philanthropy in the administration of vaccines. It would be a lie to say that listening to them speak about their ambitions and work together did not make their windup story as a couple heart-wrenching to witness––taking even me by surprise.
Bill Gates has become the face of public health, and to some, it may also be known that he is the current scapegoat of COVID-19 conspiracy theories. From what I’ve witnessed so far, this divorce seems to have poured more oil over the fiery terrain of misinformation and proofless theories and has spawned murky ripples on their united, philanthropic image.
Divorces of the world’s richest couples are not new to us at all, and yet, arguably, these splits never fail to dominate headlines and catch people’s attention in conversations. While perhaps fueled and reigned by our sheer curiosity of the gossipy phenomenon, I hold that they also extend beyond the upheaval of just one wealthy family’s life. Rather instead, they are clenched by the impact that they indisputably hold on business, public health, culture, philanthropy and much more in our society.
Esma is an English major and Environmental Planning Minor located in Sacramento, California. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found chasing after her cat, Kiki.
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