More About Christy Karras

Does the new Superman wear a pocket protector?

Bill Gates

My first crappy photo of Bill Gates (on the right, with producer Lesley Chilcott and legendary school reformer Geoffrey Canada)

Ever since we moved to Seattle, people have been asking Bill, my fiance, “Have you met Bill Gates yet?”

I suppose people think that since (my) Bill works in technology in Seattle, he might someday run into (the richest man in the world) Bill. And it will probably happen eventually. But I ended up meeting the software star first. Today, at Sundance.

Gates was here to support “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary about just how bad America’s public education is, and why. The Gates Foundation is a big supporter of efforts to reform failing schools, and Gates is also interviewed in the film, bemoaning the lack of educated American workers who could be filling the high-paying jobs he now has to recruit for worldwide.

In person, Gates was, well, pretty nerdy. During the post-screening Q&A, the filmmakers turned to him whenever someone asked a question involving numbers or obscure facts, and he happily rattled off percentages and program names.

I met him at a reception after the screening. I’m sorry to say I have no photographic evidence (he posed with fans and I did have a camera, but I just can’t bring myself to do something as cheesy as ask to have a photo taken with someone). I shook his hand and introduced myself and mentioned that my fiance works for a couple of his old buddies (which is true), and he replied with, “I love those guys!” and that was about it. He’s clearly enjoying his job as philanthropist, which he approaches the way he approaches everything: with an eye toward value and return on investment.

I did have nice conversations with a couple Gates Foundation folks, which I hope to print sometime soon.

The movie, directed by Davis Guggenheim of “An Inconvenient Truth” fame, is a touching and saddening look at families’ efforts to get their kids into better public schools, even as the odds are stacked against them. It looks at the ways some schools (often public charter schools) are blowing the notion that kids fail in school because they come from poor families or otherwise tough backgrounds. And it gives some reasons why it’s so difficult to make schools better (national teachers’ unions are big villains here).

Bill Gates was a surprise guest, as was Geoffrey Canada, a prominent school reformer. Musician John Legend, who composed a song for the film, will be in town tomorrow.

In related news, Microsoft is everywhere at this year’s festival – not that you’d know it, necessarily. The company’s search engine, Bing, is an official festival sponsor and hosts the Bing Bar hangout on Main Street and quite a few parties. Obviously, the company’s trying to distance itself from Microsoft’s staid reputation.

It’s probably safe to say that Bill Gates didn’t have much to do with “Waiting for Superman” getting into Sundance – I mean, Guggenheim has an Oscar, and all. And the movie itself is good. Paramount will be releasing it nationally, so make a point of seeing it. Just maybe not with an ardent teachers’ union rep.

Bill Gates

...and, my second crappy photo of Bill Gates, this time at the reception.

January 23, 2010   No Comments