‘You can give away half of it and not change your life’

Gayle King recently interviewed Melinda French Gates about her divorce, her excitement for her future and her stance regarding philanthropy.

Melinda, who is 57, exhorted fellow billionaires in the almost 10-minute interview, which aired on CBS Mornings.

“Giving away money your family will never need is not an especially noble act,” Melinda wrote in her latest letter for the Giving Pledge, which she founded with ex-husband Bill Gates and business magnate Warren Buffett in 2010.


“I believe the only responsible thing to do with a fortune this size is give it away — as thoughtfully and impactfully as possible. The ultimate goal of any philanthropist should be to render the need for philanthropy obsolete.”

The Giving Pledge requires signers to pledge to give away at least half their wealth during their lifetimes or shortly after their death. It has been signed by Elon Musk, Mackenzie Scott, and Mark Zuckerberg, who are all billionaires.

Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates, and Warren Buffett

In the original letter, Melinda and Bill had committed to giving most of the former’s fortune to the Gates Foundation. According to the Wall Street Journal, Melinda plans to distribute her fortune to several philanthropic organizations.

Melinda said that “if you are lucky enough to be a billionaire, believe me, you can give away half of it and not change your life.”

“And we should. We should have a society where if for whatever reason wealth is in your hands, you put it back in society so that you change and you lift up others,” she added.

Melinda split from her husband and became a billionaire. Her net worth is now $11.5 billion.

Melinda French Gates signing her book, The Moment of Lift

Melinda, a global advocate for girls and women, said that she personally likes to “see” and “feel” her philanthropy in action.

“We have to listen to people. They have their own solutions in their community,” she explained. “And if we listen sometimes it’s just a matter of saying, ‘Oh my gosh, they’ve got the way to keep the water clean, let’s just fund what we know will work.’”

Among Melinda’s areas of focus are Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company she created in 2015 to advance social progress and help women and families in the country. The company tackles issues such as paid-leave policies, and getting more women involved in technology to run or serve in public office.

Melinda French Gates with Malala

Even after her widely-publicized divorce from Bill last year, Melinda said she remains committed to her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization focusing on combating poverty and disease. It has donated more than $60 billion to various causes since 1994.

“We founded this institution back in 2000. Both of us. Both of our names are on the building. I believe in this institution. I believe in what they do. My values are baked into that institution,” she shared.

Melinda admitted the process hasn’t always been easy but said she maintains a “productive working relationship“ with her former spouse.

“I think the thing that people don’t realize is that even during the difficult times, the last 18 months, while we were going through this process behind the scenes we were able to show up and work effectively together. I’m not saying it was easy, but we did,” she said. “I still rose to my higher self. I think we can continue to do that.”

Melinda French Gates
Giving Pledge

Bill made a similar statement in a CBS News interview. He said that he also remained “dedicated to my work at the Gates Foundation in partnership with Melinda, where our focus is to help reduce global inequities, giving every person the chance to live a healthy and productive life.”

Melinda expressed her excitement about the future and said that she looks forward to seeing what the year brings.

“I’m really excited about my life and the work ahead,” she said.

Watch Melinda’s insightful interview with Gayle King in the video below.

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