By Terry Collins. Originally published on CNET.
Silicon Valley is giving more than ever before.
In a culture with a reputation for being selfish, some tech heavyweights are using their clout and money to affect change. On Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, celebrated the birth of their daughter by saying they will create and fund a new initiativeworth about $45 billion.
In a “letter to our daughter,” Zuckerberg described his and his wife’s planned investments. “Can our generation cure disease so you live much longer and healthier lives? Can we connect the world so you have access to every idea, person and opportunity? Can we harness more clean energy so you can invent things we can’t conceive of today while protecting the environment?”
Zuckerberg said they hope to answer yes to each question.
The man in charge of the world’s largest social network made his announcement on Giving Tuesday, a global day of philanthropy at the start of the Christmas and holiday season. It’s also on the heels of Monday’s news that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and other industry titans are pooling their resources to create a fund pushing clean energy.
The donations are just the latest examples of tech industry leaders using their influence and their money to solve the world’s problems. Saleforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, for example, has donated $200 million since 2010 to create two children’s hospitals, one in San Francisco and another across the Bay in Oakland, California. In February, Zuckerberg and his wife donated $75 million to San Francisco General Hospital, which will be renamed after them.
In addition to saying he’ll donate most of his wealth, Apple CEO Tim Cook has influenced change through his actions. In October 2014, Cook wrote an opinion piece in Bloomberg Businessweek where he announced he is gay and advocated for human rights and equality. In March, he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post where he railed against state laws that would have discriminated against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities.
Cook, along with Benioff and more than 100 tech executives from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Yelp, criticized laws in Indiana and Arkansas that threaten to “allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.”The following month, lawmakers in both Indiana and Arkansas bowed to pressure and amended their “religious freedom” laws.
“Certainly Tim has been willing to take courageous positions on a number of issues,” said Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie. “Apple is progressive on many fronts and I give him enormous credit to both his leadership and culture of the company.”
On Monday, the Robert F. Kennedy Center announced that it will honor Cook for his efforts.
The head of the world’s most valuable company, Cook will receive the RFK Ripple of Hope Award for demonstrating a commitment to social change during a ceremony on December 8 in New York. He will be recognized along with Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), a key figure during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Evercore Partners co-founder and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Roger Altman and UNESCO Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyannis.
Past recipients include former President Bill Clinton, his wife, former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and entertainers George Clooney and Taylor Swift.