Bill Gates

Bill Gates

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 5 1998 3:30 AM

Bill Gates

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       When we got off the plane from D.C. yesterday afternoon at Teterboro Airport, there were two cars waiting. One was a white stretch limo, so I got into the other car instead, since I think large cars like that are pretentious. Went to my hotel off Central Park, where I changed into my tuxedo. I don't wear them very often--not since I was at Harvard in a men's club where they wore them all the time. Melinda helped me with the cuff links, they're so hard to get on.

       The car that Time magazine sent to pick me up for their 75th anniversary dinner pulled past the entrance to Radio City so you have to walk down about 50 or 60 feet of red carpet in front of the press. There was a huge bank of photographers and TV cameras like they have at the Oscars. And there were nearly as many movie stars at this dinner as there are at the Oscars.

       This next part will sound like I am a real name dropper, which I don't like, but it's hard to describe this dinner without being guilty of it. I must have met more famous people in one place at this event than anywhere I've been.

       Raquel Welch came up and wanted to meet me. I chatted with Kerri Strug, the Olympic gymnast, and ran into Senator Kennedy, who had been at the Senate hearings earlier in the day. Muhammad Ali was there. He came to campus a year ago when I was out of town, and left me a pair of autographed boxing gloves, so it was fun to finally get to talk to him. I talked for quite awhile with Steve Jobs, and with John Irving, who I have met before and whose books I love.

       I thought the launch party for Windows 95 was a big deal. The Time dinner cost somewhere between $3 million and $4 million to produce. For one night! They covered all the seats on the entire main floor of Radio City Music Hall with tiers of tables. It was just incredible.

       My table included Melinda and my father; Bruce Hallett, president of Time magazine, and his wife; Dr. James Watson, the Nobel-Prize winner who discovered the structure of DNA, and his wife; and actress Sharon Stone and her husband, Phil Bronstein, an executive with the San Francisco Examiner.

       The focus of the evening was paying tribute to people who really influenced the 20th century. Toni Morrison honored Dr. Martin Luther King. Steve Spielberg recognized the film director John Ford. President Clinton talked about FDR and Teddy Roosevelt, and I spoke about the amazing things the Wright Brothers did to figure out flight, and how that has changed the world for the better.

       Even though I've spoken to thousands of people at hundreds of places before, I was kind of nervous before this event. This wasn't a technology crowd and I wasn't talking about computers. People didn't come to hear about anything I know anything about. I'm really into the Wright Brothers but I wasn't sure if I could get the audience interested. It seemed to go well though. The President was in fine form. He is a great speaker and talking about FDR and freedom is something he was clearly excited about.

       When the dinner was over, we waited on the curb for what seemed like forever to catch a cab back to the hotel, but it was fun because Tom Hanks was waiting too, so we had quite a long chat.

       Melinda and I got back to the hotel room about midnight and considered calling Jennifer at home (there's a 3 hour time difference). She is almost 2 and we can ask her exciting questions over the phone now, like "What sound does a cow make?" I love the way she says, "Moo." However we decided it was too late to call.

       This morning I went to Mott Hall, a public school in Harlem, with Tony Amato, head of District 6 in the New York schools. I met with sixth graders who are using laptop computers in a program that is looking at whether giving each kid their own PC makes a difference in stimulating them to get excited about learning. You have to see it to believe how these laptops have really brought the classroom and learning to life. These kids have such enormous potential. They're even using PowerPoint to do class presentations.

       There was one kid, Luis, who asked how hard it was to port 16-bit apps to 32-bit apps. I thought that was a great question from an 11-year-old. I also explained to the students how Senate hearings work and what it was like in D.C.

       I then went to the New York Public Library for a question and answer session with TV interviewer Charlie Rose. He asked some pretty tough questions about the competitiveness of the American software industry and the future of the Internet. Melinda and I have been doing a lot of work with libraries, including the New York library, so it was fun to do an event there.

       This has been a very exciting week. Intense, but exciting. It's had a little bit of everything. Testifying before Congress for the first time. Attending a glitzy bash in New York. I was very glad my father and Melinda got to be at both of these events. Then the meeting with kids in Harlem and the event at the library. I'm looking forward to getting home and seeing Jennifer, and, of course, catching up on my e-mail. I probably have 1,000 messages to answer by now.

       I had a burger and typed this before getting into the car to go to the airport. It's going to be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight.