Back in 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed Bill Gates "Giving Pledge" with a commitment to give away most of his fortune. At that time, the 26-year-old was worth a cool $6.9 billion. Five years later, with Facebook dominating the mobile scene and the social network's global reach greater than ever, his shares in the company are now worth an estimated $45 billion.
Not bad for a 31-year-old college dropout.
Despite these accomplishments, Zuckerberg is playing the long game when it comes to making a difference with his wealth. We've already seen hints of what's possible, including a partnership earlier this week with Bill Gates on a new multi-billion dollar clean energy fund. But it's the recent birth of his daughter Max that appears to have spurred him to announce broader strokes. Together with his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg says they will donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares during their lives to charitable causes.
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"As you begin the next generation of the Chan Zuckerberg family," they wrote to their daughter, "we also begin the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities."
The full letter is a worthy read for anyone who has ever wondered how they might change the world if given the financial resources to do so. The couple highlight two main ideas as the focus of their mission: advancing human potential and promoting equality. They also briefly touch upon how they might achieve both — from advancing the availability of Internet around the world to reforming education, building more incusive communities, and improving universal access to healthcare.
The main tenets of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are to advance human potential and promote equality. (Photo: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative)
"Max, we love you and feel a great responsibility to leave the world a better place for you and all children," they continued. "We wish you a life filled with the same love, hope and joy you give us. We can't wait to see what you bring to this world."
The Zuckerberg letter and 99 percent pledge has already received copious praise, including from Melinda Gates who, with a top reply of more than 27,000 likes, praised the couple as an inspiration."As for your decision to give back so generously, and to deepen your commitment now, the first word that comes to mind is: Wow. The example you’re setting today is an inspiration to us and the world," she said.