This past week, one of the world’s most famous and influential
men made a major announcement concerning our global future. But you might have missed it because America’s national news media was obsessing over President Obama’s State of the Union address.
Let’s face it, a State of the Union address by any president is more political theater than serious news.
Perhaps that’s why the coverage often sounded like theater reviews. The most talked about line in the speech was a zinger reminding Republicans that he had beat them in two elections. Some analysts debated whether that line was planned or spontaneous. Others talked about how well it was delivered. Some just liked it because it made them feel good.
No one discussed the substantive implications of the speech because there weren’t any. Not even President Obama’s biggest fans believe that anything on his laundry list of policy ideas has any chance of becoming reality. Those on the left blame Republicans for unfairly blocking the president’s agenda. Those on the right believe he has lost touch with reality and refuses to acknowledge the recent election results.
The rest of us have too many important things going on in our lives to waste time on such silliness. We have little interest in watching the activists argue about who is to blame. That reality goes a long way toward explaining why most Americans are turned off by both politics and traditional news commentary.
While the media elites were reviewing the performances of political actors, Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, made a major announcement: “The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history.” The Gates’ plan envisions cutting child deaths in half, enabling Africa to feed itself, dramatic improvements in education and more.
They are going to change the world!
Given the long history of extreme poverty in Africa, it’s staggering to expect so much progress in just 15 years. But the wealthy couple did more than talk about it. Mr. and Mrs. Gates offered to put their “credibility, time and money” behind that effort. They are walking the walk and doing what they can to bring about meaningful and measurable change.
So why was the media more interested in the State of the Union address?
I suspect it’s because the reporters are part of the political process and want to feel important. They can influence politicians and want to believe that those politicians run the world.
The reality that national political reporters don’t want to see is that meaningful change almost always begins outside the political process. Bill Gates himself is proof of this. The companies he and Steve Jobs started in the 1970s have had a far bigger impact on the nation than all the presidents combined over the past 40 years.
Looking ahead, the tech world of today is going to have a bigger impact on our future than any president will have. Gates and his wife will use their tech fortune and new technology to truly reduce poverty around the globe. Others in Silicon Valley are developing tools and apps that billions will use to improve their own lives and strengthen their communities.
While they are busy changing the world, the Washington media continues to cover political performance art.