When Bill Gates looks at the world, he sees opportunity. That’s what helped him create one of the most successful global companies in world history, start a nonprofit that aims to empower the world’s most vulnerable, and, most recently, edit an issue of one of the United States’ eminent magazines.
On Thursday, TIME Magazine released its first issue of 2018, edited by Gates himself, and it’s all about an important topic: optimism.
In an essay he penned, Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a partner of Global Citizen, spoke of the shared challenges facing the world, but also the opportunity to create lasting change in 2018 and beyond.
“Being an optimist doesn’t mean you ignore tragedy and injustice,” Gates wrote. “It means you’re inspired to look for people making progress on those fronts, and to help spread that progress more widely.”
For the special issue, Gates assembled a dream team of collaborators, including Trevor Noah, Malala Yousafzai, Bono, and Ava Duvernay, to write essays on the topic of optimism, especially as it pertains to the global issues Global Citizen holds dear: women and girls’ empowerment, increasing access to health care and education, and using technology to improve lives.
Here are seven reasons to be hopeful and take action, this year, and always:
1/ Extreme poverty has decreased significantly since 1990.
In 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty was nearly one in three, according to Gates. Today? That number hovers around one in 10.
2/ 122 million children didn’t die in the past three decades.
Infant mortality rates have also dropped by half since 1990 — from about 12.1 million in 1990 to 5.8 million in 2015. According to Gates, that amounts to about 122 million lives not being lost.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly half of child deaths are easily preventable, meaning this number could continue to drastically decrease in the coming decades.
3/ Being gay is not a crime in more than 100 countries.
The 1920s may have been known in the US as a time of opulence and openness, but for many around the world, especially those in the LGBTQ community, that era also meant having to hide who you are. One hundred years ago, Gates wrote, being gay was only legal in 20 countries worldwide, but that number has increased five-fold in the past century.
Let’s hope 2018 sees even more.
Apparently, millennials have ruined a lot of things: marmalade, working, the American Dream, stilettos, and baby names, to name a few.
But Trevor Noah is actually hopeful for the future, because of them.
“Millennials oftentimes are mocked — people say they’re lazy, that they’re entitled and that they cry about small things (which is true),” he wrote. “But they’re also driven. They wish to make a change. They believe that they can make a change, partly because of the information and the tools that they possess.”
According to the “Millennial Impact Report,” which was released in 2016, more than nine in 10 US millennials (defined as being born between 1980 and 2000), believed they had the ability to create positive change in their country.
Seems like we may be the only ones more optimistic than Bill Gates.
5/ Women will fix everything.
Even in the most challenging situations women and girls around the world are taking their education, their bodies, and their lives into their own hands.
Malala Yousafzai, who knows more than a little about doing this, wrote that she believes she will see “every girl in school in my lifetime.”
Melinda Gates noted that “women’s movements were more effective at advancing policy change — particularly on violence against women — than most other factors, including a country’s wealth and the number of women lawmakers in a legislative body,” and called on lawmakers to dedicate more funding to NGOs that focus on women.
6/ Men are taking responsibility.
Bono, who was once awarded a Woman of the Year Award by Glamour Magazine for his activism on the topic of gender, called on men to no longer “step back and leave it to women alone to clean up the mess we’ve made and are still making.”
He has reason to be cautiously optimistic.
After millions of women tweeted their stories of assault with the #MeToo hashtag, men responded online with the words #HowIWillChange. According to a recent study, nearly half of men said that the #MeToo campaign and allegations of sexual assault made them rethink past interactions with women.
7/ Marginalized voices are being heard.
Director Ava DuVernay is known for producing films — such as documentaries 13th and Selma — that link the present to the past in the hopes of a more just future.
In a powerful op-ed, she wrote about the ability for anyone to “express yourself through words and images on a variety of public platforms and make yourself heard and seen.”
As the politics of representation change and allow for more voices to be heard, women, minorities, and marginalized artists will be critical at ensuring that the future is rewritten to include everyone, and not just the most privileged.
Disclosure: Bill Gates is the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a funding partner of Global Citizen.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.