Duke gives award to Melinda Gates

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Published: Saturday 22nd November 2014 by The News Editor

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The proud parents of philanthropist Melinda Gates watched on while the Duke of Cambridge presented her with an award in recognition of her humanitarian work tackling poverty and poor health in the developing world.

The Duke awarded her the Chatham House Prize during a ceremony at the Royal United Services Institute and Banqueting House in Whitehall, central London.

He roared with laughter when he was inadvertently introduced as his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, to a reception full of distinguished guests from the worlds of politics, business and public health.

He and Mrs Gates – wife of former Microsoft boss Bill Gates and co-founder and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – were introduced by Chatham House director Dr Robin Niblett to guests including former prime minister Sir John Major and Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, both presidents of Chatham House, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, and ex-chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson.

Also among the guests were Mrs Gates’s mother and father, Ray and Elaine French, and her best friend from her school days, Mary Lehman.

Mrs Gates was chosen for the 2014 award in recognition of her tireless efforts over more than two decades helping women and children around the world, helping provide increased access to family planning, life-saving vaccines and better nutrition.

Presenting her with the prize – a crystal award and a scroll signed by the Queen, who is patron of the institute – William said: “Civil society, whether in the form of business, academic institutions, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) or philanthropic organisations, play a critical role in shaping international relations and in working for a fairer, more peaceful and healthier world.

“No one could provide us with a better example of the impact such organisations can have, when led with vision, commitment and unstinting generosity, than this year’s Chatham House Prize winner, Melinda Gates.

“With her equally remarkable husband Bill, Melinda set up the Gates Foundation to change the world. And change it she has, transforming the lives of women, the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged in Africa and elsewhere.

“What a wonderful example it is to others – how fitting it is to add Melinda Gates’s name to the Chatham House Prize list.

“The Queen, who has been patron of Chatham House since 1952, sends you this message, which I have the honour of reading now: ‘I send my warmest wishes and congratulations to Melinda Gates on being awarded this year’s Chatham House Prize for her humanitarian work and her long-standing commitment to philanthropy. Members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs have chosen a worthy winner.'”

Accepting her award, Mrs Gates said she was honoured to receive the award, particularly because it was presented on behalf of the Queen, who she said she has “long admired and respected”.

She added: “This award is especially meaningful to me because of what Chatham House represents. What we desperately need but somewhat lack in the world of global development is a public that not only cares deeply about these issues but gets involved and becomes deeply knowledgeable about the issues.

“There are some challenging and invigorating debates to be had about how we help the poorest countries in the world, how to help people lift themselves up and to prosper, and how to move countries from low income to middle income.”

She added: “We need to take this discussion about development out of the realm of posturing and rumour.”

Mrs Gates said that while it was “absolutely crucial” to talk about the ebola epidemic in Africa, it was important not to write the continent off as “hopeless”.

She said that with the right information and tools, impoverished people can “lift themselves up, lift their families up, communities and nations”.

Mrs Gates also thanked the British government for its commitment to development aid, saying her foundation has seen progress in developing countries directly because of it.

She added: “I sometimes wish we could take your public here and let them witness first hand what Bill and I have witnessed around the world…

“Since 1990 we have cut in half the number of children who have died under the age of five. At the same time the population has grown by two billion.

“That is incredible. We have a chance again in the next decade, in the next 15 years, to cut that number in half again.”

Her mother said she and her husband were “excited” and “thrilled” when their daughter asked them to accompany her and that Mrs Gates had helped others since she was a child.

Mrs French said: “It is almost unreal. But I remember her, of course, as a little baby and watching her grow up, and who would have ever thought that we’d have this wonderful night and be able to talk about her at this awards.

“We always believed in helping others and then she went to Ursuline Academy, her high school, their motto was ‘serviam’, which means ‘I will serve’, so that kind of reinforced the things that we had taught her at home, and then from then on she just knew the importance of serving.”

Mrs French said her daughter was “kind of surprised” to find she had won the award against other “fantastically great” nominees, and that she was very excited and pleased, and we were as well of course. We are very proud of her.”

She also said the Duke of Cambridge was “delightful” when she and her husband met him, but that he did not reveal anything about how the Duchess was getting on with her pregnancy.

Her mother said she and her husband were “excited” and “thrilled” when their daughter asked them to accompany her and that Mrs Gates had helped others since she was a child.

Mrs French said: “It is almost unreal. But I remember her, of course, as a little baby and watching her grow up, and who would have ever thought that we’d have this wonderful night and be able to talk about her at this awards.

“We always believed in helping others and then she went to Ursuline Academy, her high school, their motto was ‘serviam’, which means ‘I will serve’, so that kind of reinforced the things that we had taught her at home, and then from then on she just knew the importance of serving.”

Mrs French said her daughter was “kind of surprised” to find she had won the award against other “fantastically great” nominees, and that she was very excited and pleased, and we were as well of course. We are very proud of her.”

She also said the Duke of Cambridge was “delightful” when she and her husband met him, but that he did not reveal anything about how the Duchess was getting on with her pregnancy.

Published: Saturday 22nd November 2014 by The News Editor

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