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Bill Gates

by Annie, Stephanie, Natalie, Justin, and Danny



Introducing the Dream

The American Dream is a modern day fairytale that has been circulated nationally for centuries. It has come to represent an American obsession with the idea of success and the propagation of endless possibility. Bill Gates, founder of the powerhouse software company, Microsoft, is one of the most influential and admired entrepreneurs of our time. He has been coined as a true embodiment of the American Dream, as he has successfully worked his way up to becoming the wealthiest man in the world. But how truthful is this representation? To answer this question, the original definition of the American Dream must be evaluated.
The dream emerged around the time of the Industrial Revolution and is often credited to 19th century author Horatio Alger. In all of Alger’s novels, the hero goes through a similar series of events, which serve to establish the luck, pluck, and virtue formula of the American Dream. The hero is most commonly a white male and is characterized as ambitious, self-reliant, and as having concern for others. Through determination and heroic effort, the boy is able to rise from his poor state to a position of success. In essence, the Horatio Alger myth states that through hard work, heroic effort, and determination, anyone can prosper (4).
By the definition of the American Dream, it would appear that Bill Gates is a perfect embodiment. However, to what extent did hard work and determination alone determined his success?

A Background of Bill Gates and His Path to Achievement

Bill Gates’ accomplishments have often been compared to the achievement of the American Dream; Horatio Alger's version of the American Dream states that through hard work, determination, one will undoubtedly be able to attain copious wealth and success. In the case of Bill Gates, and a number of other extremely accomplished high-upper class citizens, there seem to be a few pieces missing along the path to success. For starters, Bill Gates was born to two very accomplished parents; his father is an attorney and his mother was a chairwoman, a regent and a schoolteacher. Growing up, Gates attended the private Lakeside School in Seattle and was accepted to Harvard University, where he went from his freshman to his junior year, before leaving to pursue Microsoft (1). The picture below features Bill, his two sisters, and his parents celebrating the holidays at a skiing party in the 1970's (2). This picture does not appear to one of an underpriviedged childhood, where Bill was forced to make his own way in the world and rise up from poverty, but rather that of a close-nit, white, upper-middle class family having a great time at a fun-filled family get together. Not everybody has this; coming from a sturdy background with successful, supportive parents plays a huge role in how successful their children will be. As one can see, it was not just the determination of a young man, but gender, ethnicity, education, and family background that are also largely involved in the achievement of the American Dream. It is perceived that the American Dream can be achieved by anyone, anywhere, through hard work and determination; this idea is made false due to the necessity of external resources, which are crucial in achieving it.
external image gates_family.jpg (2)

Big Business eats small business

Bill Gates' work with Microsoft Corporation is not one of honest ambitions and dedicated hard work. Although Gates had the initial idea of entering into a market where software was commercialized, it was not he who developed and compiled the software that has excelled Microsoft, most notably Gates himself, as a mogul in the software industry. Bill Gates, the man who made billions and lived up to the American Dream, can better be defined as a cunning businessman than fitting the image described by Horatio Alger.microsoft_logo.jpg (6)
Shortly after forming the then “Micro-Soft Corporation”, Gates published a letter to the software community stating he believed there to be a market where software could be sold commercially. Gates can be accredited to having bolstered a market where making and selling software would be profitable, but he cannot be accredited to having created the ideas behind the software and programs that have skyrocketed Gates to being the richest man in the world. Gates' business plan be seen in the following Simpson's video. The business plan set forth by Gates can best be termed monopolistic. Gates is seen in the Simpson's video clip as purchasing Homer's “Compuglobalhypermeganet” saying that Homer's business has become too successful. Such is the reasoning behind many of Microsoft's purchases in the past. The popular e-mail site Hotmail was seen as a threat to on-line e-mail, and was promptly purchased by Microsoft to reduce competition in that market. Similar to Hotmail, the popular WebTV platform was also bought by Microsoft to reduce the threat of people leaving their personal computers with Microsoft software and browsing the Internet on their TV.
Gates' journey to becoming the richest man in the world can be described as a glorified American Dream, but the fact that Gates' Microsoft Corporation literally bought the market to remove competition, can be the gray area in which the myth is falsified.



American Dream-Yesterday and Today

The modern day American Dream has been under some controversy and critical analysis by many scholars, critics, and historians. The idea of the American Dream; hard work and determination, has somewhat been changed over the last few generations. Many people today still hold the idea of the American Dream as a goal in life, although the means to achieving it have been altered. Today, people rely on different sources and opportunities to achieve this dream then people did decades ago. Things like The Lotto, Deal or No Deal, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, or Wheel a Fortune, are examples of the way people attempt to become rich. The idea of hard work and determination has been lost over the years, and people rely on things like luck to achieve the dream. The change and shift in the means of achieving the dream have been caused because of social and economic changes in the United States. The growth in society and big business have had an impact on how people go about achieving this dream. The opportunities and resources are not the same or even near the same for different classes in society. The gap has grown very big between the rich and the poor, and the resources amongst the lower class have become very scarce compared to the resources available to the middle and upper classes. People today, like Bill Gates, who achieve the American Dream tend to either be apart of the middle or upper classes or have a source of inheritance that gets them started. The motivation behind the American Dream has been lost and people rely on the easiest way to become rich. Although the means to achieving the American Dream have been changing, the idea of the American Dream still clearly exists. Many people still look at America as a place of opportunity and freedom. With these opporunities opens doors to achieving the American Dream.

Contrast and Conclusion

Bill Gates is a man who has reached his American Dream of success through hard work and determination, yet his efforts are reduced by the opportunities readily available to him and his efforts could also be considered corrupt and unmoral. His so-called hard work is characterized by his responsibility over Microsoft’s domineering business practices. Gates is deemed as a monopolistic and anti-competitive businessman, for reaching his business goals by hindering others. By buying out smaller companies so Microsoft would remain as the leading software manufacturer in the computer technology industry, Gates deters other companies from ever reaching their own success. The pursuit of his very own American dream is lined with corruptness and immorality. Yet as he finally reaches extreme wealth and prominence in the technology world, Gates now champions for the original American Dream by giving those in desperate need the opportunity to pursue their own desires.
Through his philanthropic gestures, Gates and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. The charitable organization focuses on critical areas of global health not already addressed by drug-company research and unrepresented issues of education (Time, New York Times). With assets $21.8 billion, the foundation is able to fund research for Third World diseases such as malaria and hepatitis B (New York Times). The foundation works to “develop new vaccines and cures and make existing cures more available to the people who need them” (Time). By working with Microsoft as an organization, Gates strives to offer technology "to facilitate social and economic opportunites to underserved communities throughout the world" (Gates, Youtube). He works to offer new technologies so underdeveloped communities are able to foster new skills and educational opportunites. By helping those who lack educational opportunities and are downtrodden with risks of disease and turmoil, Gates is giving them all a chance to live healthy lives so they will be able to pursue their own American Dreams, even if outside of America. Essentially, the basic foundations of the original American Dream can be applied anywhere as long as there is a seed of hope to start from. Based on the behaviors of Bill Gates, the American Dream could be characterized by selfishness and pure luck or meager beginnings. Bill Gates exemplifies both sides of this ambiguous American myth by living and giving it. The American Dream could be fulfilled through any means possible.


Work Cited

1."Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft Corp." Microsoft. 30 May 2002. 22 May 2007
<http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/billg/bio.mspx>
2. "Gates' Way." Washington. Sept. 2004. 24 May 2007 <http://www.washington.edu/alumni/columns/sept04/gates01.html>.
3. Greenfeld, Karl Taro. "Bill and Melinda Gates." Time 16 July 2000. 23 June 2007.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,49981,00.html
4. "Horatio Alger Jr." Wikipedia. 1 May 2007. 21 May 2007
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Alger,_Jr.
5. Strouse, Jean. "Bill Gates's Money." The New York Times. 16 Apr 2000. 23 June 2007.
http://www3.sympatico.ca/truegrowth/gates1.html
6. Vanheuverswyn, Maarten. "Bill Gates, saviour of the world?." In Defence Of Marxism 21 Mar 2005
http://www.marxist.com/scienceandtech/bill_gates_capitalism.htm