The Dimbleby Lecture is an annual event in which an individual who has made a significant contribution to the culture of our times gives a keynote speech to an invited audience for broadcast on BBC1.
Set up in honour of Richard Dimbleby over 40 years ago, past speakers have included the Prince of Wales, nobel prize winner Sir Paul Nurse, Terry Pratchet and Michael Morpurgo.
I’ve been part of the production team several times and it is always a pleasure. After all, someone who is absolutely at the top of their field is given the time and space and platform to give their considered opinion about a particular topic.
But I was particularly pleased to be asked to work on this year’s lecture, which was given last night by Bill Gates, who as we all know, is one of the world’s most successful businessmen and is now using his wealth to the benefit of those in need.
Chatting to the Engineering Manager on yesterday’s programme, he even went so far as to describe him as a modern-day Robin Hood, taking money from the rich west – via Microsoft profits – and redistributing it to the poor.
The lecture was held in the distinguished surroundings of the Royal Institution, itself in the news as it is under threat of closure.
The topic was the eradication of polio, something the Bill and Melinda Foundation is using its influence to try to achieve by putting pressure on governments to vaccinate children against the disease.
His key message was that if governments and people have the will, it is possible to wipe out polio, as other diseases such as smallpox have been wiped out.
Having done that, the model used could be replicated to eradicate other deadly diseases.
His foundation is putting pressure on governments to take action, and he has got the power and influence to succeed.
And he’s put his money where his mouth is – he’s recently slipped from the richest man in the world to the second richest because he’s given half of it away.
How extraordinary to be in a position to know that you can just decide one day that something major ought to happen – like wiping out a disease worldwide – and to know that you have the clout to ensure that it does.