Thursday, June 03, 2010

Gates on Gates: Proud Son Yields to Prouder Dad

Bill Gates Sr. joins famous son to promote book on family values

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates doesn’t have to deal with second billing too often, but he was happy to do so Wednesday since the person hundreds of people packed a New York auditorium to hear was someone he truly admired: His father.

“Needless to say, I am quite proud of the outcome of my family,” said Bill Gates Sr., 84, to a roar of laughter during an event at Manhattan's 92nd St. Y to promote his book, “Showing Up for Life,” which focuses on the value of family and hard work.

Gates Sr. said his position as co-chair of the charity founded by his famous son, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “is why I still get up and go to work every morning.”

“I had a lot of fun growing up,” said the younger Gates (William H. Gates III, to be precise) who famously took a pass on a Harvard education to found Microsoft. “I’m not sure if I made it fun,” he added with a smirk.

Gates Sr. had a bit to say about the value of a strong family, the poor condition of the American public education system and the damage extreme partisan politics has done to government at all levels. However his true focus was on his family, which includes two more children: daughters Kristianne and Libby.

He noted that he has a tradition of taking his grandchildren anywhere in the world they wanted to go when they turned ten years old. 

“By and large we were able to accommodate their wishes,” he said.

The last request came from one of his son’s children: Antarctica. They made it.

Gates Sr. was downright exuberant when he spoke of the 6,000 students a year who “go to school on Bill and Melinda’s dollar.”

During a question-and-answer session, the younger Gates said running Microsoft during its infancy “wasn’t that hard” and “didn’t seem like that big of deal” at the time.

He said Microsoft started on the premise that software, not hardware was the “key ingredient” in developing a usable computer. Unlike other companies that focused on a single product, like the old WordPerfect Corp., Microsoft sought to develop entire platforms of software products, he said.

“In all success stories there are significant elements of luck and timing,” he said. “You do have to be lucky enough, but you have to be fanatical enough to keep it going.”

In a week where Apple, buoyed by strong sales of its new iPad tablet, nudged ahead of Microsoft to become the world’s largest tech company in terms of market capitalization, the younger Gates actually eked out some praise for his competitor.

“Now Apple’s doing a good job with hardware,” he said as some in the audience tittered. “There’s room for more than one success story.”

So what did Gates Sr. aim to teach readers with his book?

“To get people to think about how we are all in this together,” he said. “We’re grossly interdependent.”

Photos and text Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features

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