Bill Gates on college tour's first day

In an interview with CNET, the philanthropist and Microsoft chairman reflects on the Bay Area leg of his three-state college tour.

Bill Gates shows just one slide as part of his college speaking tour--a chart of childhood deaths that highlights both progress and the need for more work. Ina Fried/CNET

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Bill Gates was feeling pretty good Monday night, though the Microsoft chairman said he's still honing his pitch to convince college students to change the world.

"I can always say to myself, 'Hey, I could have answered that question better.'" Gates said. "I'll get better as time goes on."

But Gates, who travels to Chicago on Tuesday before wrapping up the three-day tour in Boston on Wednesday, said he is pretty pleased with how things have gone so far.

Click on the image above to see CNET's complete coverage of Bill Gates' College Tour.

"There's only so much you can squeeze into a day," he said, sipping a Diet Coke in a green room after his speech at Stanford University. "I'm pleased with the questions people had. There's been no shortage of questions and all pretty relevant to the topic at hand."

I asked Gates why he chose to show only one slide in his talk --a chart of childhood death rates over the last 50 years. The chart shows that deaths are now half of what they were in 1960, but also that 8.8 million children under 5 still die each year.

"The general understanding that a child's death is tragic, that's very strong," Gates said. "It's actually in rich countries, where health improves and it becomes very unusual for a child to die, that people really appreciate how awful that is. They can understand that for a mother in Africa it's no less tragic than it is for them."

One of the key differences is vaccines, Gates said, noting that they are widespread in the rich world, but not yet widespread in the developing world, nor are there vaccines for some diseases, like malaria, that disproportionately affect poorer countries.

"I tried a different way of articulating it today that I've never done before," Gates said. He was referring to a statistic he used that looks at a group of people born at the same time and when the point will be reached where 20 percent of that birth group has died.

"It has this nonlinear element to it," Gates said. "In one country it's 4 years old and in the other country, it's 60 years old."

I'll have much more from the tour and Gates himself in the coming days. I'll pick up my coverage tomorrow morning in Boston, heading to both Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology before sitting down with Gates again.

 

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