THE BLOG
09/05/2014 10:18 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

Philanthropy and Education

Dear Steve Ballmer,

I'm not sure if you know Mark Zuckerberg, but I just wrote to him and he suggested I contact you. Mark and his wife, Priscilla, have given a quarter of a billion dollars to help improve education. You have just paid $2 billion to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. I gather you, like Mark, are worth over $20 billion. Unlike Mark, you haven't signed Bill Gates's "Giving Pledge" yet. What's with that? In fact, your philanthropy has not been very significant, so I thought I'd jump in the game, so to speak, and offer some advice.

We all know that you paid twice as much as the Clippers are worth. It's your money, and who isn't glad that you were able to get rid of Donald Sterling. We also know that, as Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute said, "This reflects an enormously wealthy person buying a toy." I also know that for billionaires the prestige of owning a major sports team is pretty darn cool.

I get it. I also like the Clippers. Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul are all great guys. They show leadership, sportsmanship, and boy, can they play b-ball! They manage and play with heart and desire.

You don't know Berhane Azage, Carlos Galan, or Ernesto Urbina. And at 5'6, 5'7, and 5'8 they're not likely to start in the NBA any day soon. But they play with heart and desire, too. The difference is that these three guys went to academically weak public high schools in Los Angeles and they all succeeded. They ended up graduating from Stanford, UCLA, and UC Santa Barbara. Berhane manages a division of an equities firm, Carlos is counseling kids like himself about how to go to college, and Ernesto is studying to be a high school math teacher in the inner city.

I guess what I'm suggesting Steve is that if you want to see some guys with amazing heart and desire then let me take you to some of the public schools in Los Angeles. I'll promise you all the food you can eat, just like you'll get at the Staples Center, and you don't need to pay $2 billion.

Just give us $1 billion dollars. I know you want outcomes--so do Mark and I. You've probably told Doc already that you want an NBA championship within five years. I know you have high standards (and a temper). So do I. We're perfectly suited for one another. If you give me $1 billion I'll cut the dropout rate in LA public schools in half and double the college-going rate. For every Doc, Blake, and Chris, I'll find you one hundred times as many Berhane's, Carlos's, and Ernesto's.

You'll be a hero, Steve. And you'll make more of a difference with that $1 billion than what you're going to do for $2 billion. And what a lucky guy! You can do both--simultaneously! Wow.

Let's talk. Mark and I are on Facebook. Friend us.

Bill