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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview With Bill Gates About Coronavirus, Vaccine And Politics; White House's Foreign Policy Mess Around The World. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 22, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): Today on the show, Bill Gates on the careening COVID crisis in America. More than a quarter of a million dead since the start with a few plane loads of people dying here every 24 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We need to actually double down on the public health measures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Almost 200,000 new cases on some days, many tens of thousands in the hospital. Now Thanksgiving gatherings threaten to add serious fuel to this raging wildfire.
I'll talk to Gates about the latest on the disease and the vaccines.
Also, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, Israel, Yemen. A Trump official says the intent is to set so many foreign policy fires that the Biden administration won't be able to put them out. How will America recover on the world stage?
I will ask former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, and Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take. The first time I met Barack Obama he struck me as different from any other politician I had met. He was smart, well read, affable and energetic. But that isn't what made him stand out. It was the way he asked questions.
Most politicians ask a question to answer it themselves. After giving you a brief opportunity to respond, they jump in. Well, here's what I think. And proceed to deliver some packaged piece of wisdom that no doubt they've recited dozens of times. But Obama would ask a question to which he actually wanted an answer. He would listen and ask another question. He genuinely wanted to understand how someone else might view an issue.
That unusual politician comes through clearly in his new book, "A Promised Land." It is well written, certainly the best written presidential memoir I have read. Obama has an easy and stylish way with words, describing walking through the west colonnade of the White House, he says, "It was where each morning I felt the first slap of winter wind or pulse of summer heat."
Describing the helicopter ride, he writes, "I gazed out of the rolling Maryland landscape and the tidy neighborhoods below, and then the Potomac glistening beneath the fading sun."
The most notable feature of the book, however, is Obama's ability to see not just both sides of every issue, but even to empathize with the sided vigorous opposition to his own. He writes that he could understand Hillary Clinton's frustration after a long climb to power to be confronting an upstart challenger for the Democratic nomination.
He understands the motivations of Republican leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, and provides a short history lesson. American voters rarely reward the opposition for cooperating with the governing party. He even has a grudging respect for the way the Tea Party gained passionate support and widespread news coverage.
This quality of fair mindedness is admirable in anyone, especially one who has risen to the top of a cutthroat profession like politics and it did give Obama considerable advantages in both domestic and foreign policy. He could see the world with different people's eyes which broadened his horizons and made him a better negotiator.
But his memoir does have one gap. A lacuna in his vision, both as president and as a writer. He devotes little time in the book to the central political dynamic in his years in office. The rise of an enraged utterly obstructionist Manichean opposition to his presidency and to himself personally that ultimately culminated in the election of Donald Trump.
A reminder. Barack Obama was a moderate Democrat, conservative in temperament, he acknowledges, and governed as one. For his key economic advisers he chose Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, widely seen as two of the most centrist market-friendly experts of the party. He kept on Bush's Defense secretary and offered Republican Senator Judd Gregg another key cabinet post, secretary of Commerce.
He sent in thousands more troops to Afghanistan and expanded drone warfare. And his health care plan was modelled on the conservative Heritage Foundation's old proposal, one that also served as the basis for Mitt Romney's program when he was governor of Massachusetts.
This reign of moderation and compromise, however, elicited a reaction from the Republican Party that was furious and vengeful.
[10:05:06] Obama notes that Gregg, who initially accepted the job as Commerce secretary, had to back down in the face of activist outrage that he was serving the enemy. Obama recounts the case of Charlie Crist, who as governor of Florida, supported Obama's stimulus which the state desperately needed since its economy was in freefall. His two-second handshake and hug with Obama made Crist so toxic within the Republican Party that by 2010 he had to become an independent and later a Democrat.
Despite many compromises, Obama got not one Republican vote for his stimulus or health care bills in the House of Representatives. And opposition to his policy was often couched in blatantly racist ways, such as posters denouncing Obamacare with caricatures of him as an African witch doctor with a bone stuck to his nose. The man who succeeded him in the office, Donald Trump, rose to political prominence by casting doubt on whether Obama was born in the United States.
Obama talks about these hysterical reactions to him intelligently but briefly. Never offering deep analysis or passionate anger. He admits he wasn't focused on the ominous undercurrents that were growing in strength. He writes, "My team and I were too busy." But it might also be that it would take him into deep and dark waters that are so different from the hopeful optimistic country he so plainly wants to believe in.
America for him remains a promised land.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Let's get right to it with Bill Gates. He was, of course, the co- founder of Microsoft. He is now the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation has been deeply focused on finding a vaccine for COVID-19 among many other health issues.
Bill, welcome back to the show.
BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So, first, give us a sense, where are we? We see these numbers. They seem to be rising, obviously. There is an exponential growth issue. But on the other hand, the death rate has come down. Hospitalization is rising but sort of manageable.
I'm trying to get from you, you know, how worried should we be about the next two months?
GATES: Well, we should be very worried about the next six months. The case numbers are going up a lot, and while the age profile of those cases is somewhat younger, which cuts the death rate, and the ability to treat, we are going to have just so many cases that the death rate will get up over 2,000 for a lot of this winter period.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that means that we are going to inevitably have to move towards some kind of a second series of real lockdowns? GATES: Well, lockdowns are only as good as the adherence to those
lockdowns are, and, you know, mask-wearing mandates are only as good as people following those. And unfortunately, I don't know, given the fatigue and the politicization and the, you know, confused messages, you know, the White House was saying, you know, we've never been in such great shape. What? What is that referring to? It's not clear.
Ideally, people would say, OK, because the medical tools are coming, we can double down on good behavior, you know, try not to have your family be the last death in this pandemic because you are willing to see it through until the spring, which is when the vaccine will really start to cut the numbers down, and, of course, the change in weather will be helping us as well.
ZAKARIA: What do you make of the fact that Europe's numbers have also gone up so badly? Because in some cases, they were handling it better than the United States was. They seemed to have managed the first wave better, and now in many cases they are doing worse than the United States is on a per capita basis. What conclusion did you draw from that?
GATES: Well, the entire northern hemisphere, wherever you have a lot of cases, is seeing a big winter rebound. And that was expected by a lot of people. The resurgence started in Europe first. They've also put in more effective measures if you look at their mobility numbers. They have reduced mobility. And so they are starting to see a peak. Whereas in the United States compliance on mobility is fairly low and so we are still climbing up.
And that climb is expected to continue literally through February and that's where you get likely over 2,000 deaths per day during this winter period.
ZAKARIA: You've been advocating people being more cognizant of these social distancing rules. You know, for example, the issue now is about Thanksgiving. So, I mean, you know, you know there are a lot of people who worry that there are elites out there who tell everybody what to do but then don't follow the rules themselves.
So let me ask you, what's your Thanksgiving dinner going to look like?
GATES: We will have less family members there than we normally would have. You know, everybody's always reminding each other about masks. The numbers show that, you know, we could save over 50,000 lives in the U.S. just by getting our mask compliance up. You know, it's not a time when, you know, people will be able to enjoy the Thanksgiving quite the way that they'd like to. I'll have a video connection with a lot of the family members on Thanksgiving Day, but not be with them to have turkey together.
ZAKARIA: So, to me, what is still the central puzzle about how America has handled this has been, why our testing has been so bad. I mean, I understand that with the crazy quilt patchwork of centrist state and local government that maybe, you know, having people all observe social distancing and restrict travel would be hard.
But I sort of assumed that we would flood the zone with money so that there would be incredibly widespread testing of all kinds, rapid, you know, PCR, everything. And we still are in a situation where testing is just not that great. What explains this?
GATES: Well, we should be able to raise the capacity, which is about 1.5 million a day. You know, that means in a week you can test, you know, about 2.5 percent of the population. If you are getting the results back within 24 hours and you are testing the right people, that is, people who are symptomatic or people who are contacts of those people, and making sure it's not just wealthy people able to access repeated testing, then you can start to cut off some infection chains.
But the contact tracing effort was not managed at the federal level. Most states have a hard time getting the interviews going, getting the databases working there. So contact tracing is largely a failure and now we're getting up to a level of numbers where even if it was well managed, it would be very, very difficult. There are new test capacities coming along in almost every category. Some of them you have to be careful, like the strip test, which is good.
But it doesn't catch the early cases like the PCR test. And so people are going to be a little confused about when do you switch tests. We do think in the first quarter we can more than double the number of tests out there, and, you know, then we'll have a new administration that will make sure you're getting the results back very quickly. They'll, you know, avoid reimbursing for these out-of-date results and figure out how to layer in the new test types. So testing will be helping us more once you have a federal set of policies.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. Next on GPS, from the problems to the solutions. Bill Gates on the vaccines that have been highly publicized and some of the medicines that have not.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Bill Gates talking about the pandemic.
Bill, how hopeful are you that what we are seeing with the vaccines which clearly is very good news, the results, you know coming in at 95 percent, when even 70 percent, 75 percent efficacy would have been good? Do you think this will -- this is a predictor of the other vaccines? Are they all going to look -- you know, are we going to be surprised on the upside with all this stuff?
GATES: Yes. Almost all the vaccines will work and with very high efficacy levels. The Pfizer vaccine was in the middle of the pack in terms of the antibody solicited. AstraZeneca, that we hope at the least the U.K. will approve before the end of the year, was only a little bit less than that. Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, you know, even better immunity from those.
So we've got now some of the factories in India actually making the AstraZeneca vaccine at risk. You know, we funded that transfer, and those factories are very high volume and those vaccines are very cheap, very scalable. And so the next few approvals, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, will be critical to get to very, very big numbers. But I am optimistic that by February it's very likely that they'll all prove very efficacious and safe.
ZAKARIA: And how worried are you about the execution, the delivery part of this? I mean, the first two ones require that they be kept at cold temperatures and they're double dose. The others are not. But looking at it all in totality, is distribution of the vaccines going to be a huge problem, or do you think it can be managed?
GATES: Yes, so there is once you get the supply ramped up enough, then you have both the logistics and the willingness to take the vaccine. And I am hopeful, even though the logistic piece is a bit confused in the U.S. right now. There, you know, should be a Web site where you're already indicating your status and the criteria, ranking people. You get told what your priority code is based on your profession and age.
You know, people should be seeing that. You want to make sure that you don't waste any of this vaccine. But, you know, in slightly imperfect ways, I do think the logistics will get solved. I think that there will be enough people who jump in early on that people see even more evidence of the safety and then over time we will get to that 70 percent plus level that we need in order to stop the spread of the disease.
ZAKARIA: You know a lot of the people who are advising Joe Biden. Do you think that the approach he's taking -- do you think the people he's appointed are likely to be able to bring about a change in the federal policies, and that they will substantially improve as a result?
GATES: Well, it would have been nice to have those people be the ones presenting to the public and the public not feel like the pandemic was being minimized, you know, with a desire to share good news. These are good people. You know, I was really pleased to see the list of people. It's great the president-elect is making this such a priority. He will be able to take the tools that a combination of Barden, the private sector work have created now.
He'll be able to participate in the global effort to get rid of this disease, so it's not constantly coming back into the country. He will rejoin the WHO so there is a lot of things that they will be able to do better.
Whether they can get people wearing masks, you know, now that that's almost been politicized, I don't know. But that will be a nice milestone to have, you know, more than Tony Fauci who are, you know, willing to communicate in a clear way and be honest about the bad news, you know, in key positions.
ZAKARIA: Before we get to President Biden's term, we of course still have a ways to go. And I've got to ask you this, Bill. I know you don't like to talk about politics, but a lot of people listen to you. And as a citizen, are you worried about what is going on right now with -- you know, I mean, a situation where the president seems determined not to concede the election?
GATES: You know, I was always told people I didn't like sore losers, and there is a lot at stake in terms of how well our democracy allows peaceful transition. You know, so I am hopeful that very quickly the transition efforts are put fully activated. You know, I'm not following the minutia, but it's disappointing that uncertainty is created where there should be none.
ZAKARIA: But you're optimistic that this will be resolved? In other words, how worried are you about where we are now?
GATES: You know, the idea, is there long-term damage to have people who trust you be told that our electoral system is flawed? You know, I know there is a lot of concern about that. But I think we'll have a smooth transition to the President-elect Biden.
ZAKARIA: You have some experience with conspiracy theories. Do you worry that this conspiracy theory will -- you know, that this has now been set in motion, the conspiracy about a fraudulent election?
GATES: Well, I think the U.S. should be proud of the example that typically we sat until other countries, you know, to have free and fair elections and that the loser needs to concede and not, you know, try and change the rules or get around the rules in some way. So the U.S. is a shining light to other countries. Sometimes we don't live up to that, but most of the time we do.
ZAKARIA: On that note, Bill Gates, always a pleasure and an honor.
GATES: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, a Trump official admitted to CNN that the White House had mounted a sort of scorched earth campaign making such a foreign policy mess around the world that the Biden team would be hard pressed to clean it up.
I will talk to Samantha Power and Richard Haass about it when we come back.
ZAKARIA: This morning, President Trump addressed a virtual gathering of the G20. The leaders of 20 of the world's largest economies for this America First president, a man who has shown an aversion to multilateralism. It is likely the final summit of world leaders he will take part in before he leaves the White House.
ZAKARIA: Joining me now are two of America's foremost foreign policy thinkers, one from each side of the aisle. Samantha Power was the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. for the last three and a half years of the Obama administration. She is now a professor at Harvard. Richard Haass was director of policy planning in George W. Bush's State Department. He is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Sam Power, let me ask you about transitions. You did it both ways. You were -- you transitioned in from Bush to Obama and then you transitioned out as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., handing over the reins to Nikki Haley.
How bizarre is this situation and how damaging is it, where the president is simply refusing to initiate any transition at all?
SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It's thoroughly unprecedented and it is reckless in the extreme. I cannot tell you how useful the briefings were that we in the incoming Obama administration, that we received from the outgoing Bush administration.
We learned about, for example, what the status of conditions on the ground were in Afghanistan. That helped inform President -- incoming President Obama as he thought about how to launch his Afghan troop review, which was one of the first things he had to do alongside with dealing with, of course, the global economic crisis.
We learned about threats to U.S. embassies and diplomatic facilities around the world. That's something the incoming president absolutely has to be prepared for before he takes the helm, to have a plan to know where you have to watch. We learned, of course, about North Korea's nuclear program.
None of this information is being made available to the president- elect. This is crazy. This is in America's interest. It's not about any particular man. It's not about even any particular election. It's about wanting a national security apparatus that is as prepared as possible for what is coming down the pipeline, and it is what we offered the incoming Trump administration.
I will say they weren't all that eager to take it because it was a chaotic landscape where there wasn't a lot of valuation of intelligence or expertise in keeping with what would happen in the Trump administration itself. But it is the absolute responsibility of the outgoing team to provide that information and that preparation.
ZAKARIA: Richard, there is another game at foot, which we referenced at the beginning of the show, which is create as many complications or fires or make it hard to unravel Trump's policies.
So, for example, on Afghanistan, there appears to be an effort to essentially complete withdrawal, or a substantial withdrawal, so it's hard to, kind of, reverse that -- and presumably take a deal with the Taliban. What do you think of that one specifically?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Not a lot. I think it's a deeply flawed deal. It cut out the Afghan government, which has been our partner for two decades, in the first instance.
Whatever else it is, Fareed, no one should call it a peace deal. It's an American withdrawal deal, and we're going to leave behind a country still at war and the Taliban gaining the upper hand. And the last thing any of us should want to see is an Afghanistan that once again becomes a venue for terrorism.
No one should ever forget that the 9/11 terrorists were trained in Afghanistan and it could happen -- it could happen again. This is avoidable.
I'd just say one other thing, though. Yes, the last few weeks have been rough and the next two months are clearly going to be rough, but to me a lot of these things were in motion long before the transition. The real challenge facing the incoming Biden administration will be essentially four years of a foreign policy that was much more keen to disrupt than it was to build.
ZAKARIA: On that idea, Sam Power, you know, the idea that Trump has basically tried to disrupt things, will it be easier for Biden to rebuild them?
Because, you know, there will be a world out there that is eager to see an America that is re-engaged. You know, does he have a lot of people out there in Europe, even in Asia, rooting for him, you think?
POWER: Well, I think you see with the speed with which foreign leaders have recognized President-elect Biden as the winner of the election, not waiting for Trump to exhaust his legal remedies, really leaping to get out there, including leaders who worked closely with President Trump, like Prime Minister Johnson in the United Kingdom.
So that's both because they see what actually happened in the election but also there is an eagerness to move on.
There is great, great fatigue with waking up in the morning to learn about U.S. foreign policy, or even U.S. troop posture -- even U.S. troop deployments -- by tweet, to have not had occasion, for example, in the Afghan context you were just talking about with Richard, to not have occasion to brief your -- your allies, your NATO allies who have been with you for that two decades on the ground in Afghanistan, to cut and run from Syria when our NATO allies were vulnerable on the ground.
There -- there is such exhaustion with this. There is such despair, really, over the disrespect with which we have treated people who have fought and died with us.
So I think there's a -- a deep sigh of relief, but that's just the beginning, right? The key is how do you sit down together and actually chart a path forward to regain trust, to enhance our collective security? The devil is in the details there. And relief alone doesn't -- doesn't get you very far. It gets you, again, a chance to build a new framework, to deepen those alliances, to talk about China and how democracies stand together against that backdrop.
But a lot of hedging has gone on these last four years as other parts of the world, you know, now fear, of course, that someone like President Trump, if not President Trump himself, could get elected again. So that hedging is going to be something that the new administration has to deal with.
ZAKARIA: One place, Richard, that the prime minister seems very pleased with Donald Trump is, of course, Israel. Pompeo went to Israel, visited West Bank settlements for the first time. What do you think happens there and what should Biden do?
HAASS: Well, you're right, Fareed. Bibi Netanyahu might be the one democratic ally of the United States, the prime minister of Israel, who is actually going to regret the political transition here in the United States.
And this administration has done all sorts of, shall we say, favors for him and his government. I'm just not persuaded it's necessarily a favor for Israel. Israel has thrived as a democratic state and a Jewish state since its birth right after World War II. And prolonged occupation, the failure to create a Palestinian state, seems to me to force Israel sooner rather than later to make a choice between being Jewish or between being democratic. And that really would be a -- a tragic choice.
So don't get me wrong. I am pleased with the normalization between countries like the UAE and Bahrain and Israel. That's a step in the right direction.
The Palestinians have been and are a flawed negotiating partner. But to essentially turn a blind eye towards Israeli settlement activity, to actually visit a settlement, as Secretary Pompeo just did, essentially sends the not-too-subtle message that the United States is comfortable with this pattern of Israeli behavior.
And again, I think, in the long term, it's not in Israel's interests and it once again puts us, I think, in a rather hypocritical position. We're meant to be a peacemaker. But here we seem to be essentially choosing sides.
ZAKARIA: Stay with us. When we come back, I am going to ask Richard Haass and Sam Power what to make of America's democracy promotion efforts abroad, the future relations with China, all that and much more.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Samantha Power and Richard Haass.
Ambassador Power, you have a terrific essay on foreign affairs in which you talk about -- the subtitle of the section that I particularly like is called -- or like, find striking -- is "America the Incompetent."
And what you're talking about is how difficult it is going to be for the United States to lecture others, corral others, when what they are witness is a kind of extraordinary display of America's incompetence at being able to handle the pandemic.
How deep do you think that problem is? Can -- is that one Biden can -- it seems unlikely he can turn a switch
and make people think America is, you know, the city on the hill again?
POWER: Well, it will take time, of course, to restore the valuation of expertise within government agencies, to recruit people who bring, let's say, in the State Department, language expertise and regional expertise, since so many diplomats have fled -- same in the environmental agencies and -- and science-based community within the government.
But there is a lot that the commander-in-chief, the chief can do. And what I highlight, for example, is what can be done in the realm of global vaccine distribution, once we have managed to vaccinate Americans and in parallel to begin planning for what a global effort would look like.
And that has the advantage of being really important for the U.S. domestic recovery. Because the idea that our economy can recover while the pandemic is raging in parts of the world that our supply chains extend into, that our trade links extend to, where our citizens have family ties, that's just not going to work.
So it's in U.S. interests and it would showcase America's diplomatic reach, its scientific prowess, and so forth, which of course is still very much an American comparative advantage and asset.
The other area I think that's something the new president can do on day one is think through how to reform the visa process, the immigration system, as it relates to providing educational opportunity for people all around the world.
I mean, what better way to showcase, again, American dynamism than to open American universities?
Now, that's going to be challenging of course until the travel restrictions have abated, but there is much that can be done in the way of signaling, in the way of also seeking to have universities recruit from parts of the world where students have traditionally been under-represented.
Right now, Fareed, 20 percent of African leaders have some educational experience at an American university. And that just, as you know, is worth its weight in gold in terms of long-term U.S. interests and relationships.
ZAKARIA: Richard, you had a Foreign Affairs piece. I guess I should just tell everybody to just subscribe to Foreign Affairs. But -- but in that piece, what I was struck by is you point out a lot of these changes that are happening in the world are -- predate, you know, Donald Trump, and Biden is in a sense going to go into a new world. He can't simply restore things back to where they were.
What is the big challenge of the kind of changed world that Biden enters? HAASS: Probably three things, Fareed. One is the -- the rise of China
as a kind of peer competitor. And unlike the Soviet Union during the Cold War, this is a China that is economically integrated in the world; it's not just a political-military rival.
Secondly, and the pandemic is just one example of it, is the emergence of a whole set of global issues, including climate change, proliferation, terrorism, infectious disease, cyberspace, where there's an enormous gap between the arrangements in place and the response or the adequacy of the response of the -- of the world.
So simply going back into the World Health Organization or the Paris Climate Accords, while a step in the right direction, in and of itself won't get us that far.
And thirdly, and it's tied to COVID, is -- is President-elect Biden, soon to be President Biden, is going to enter the Oval Office at a time this country is as divided and as struck as it has been at any time in our lifetimes, beginning with COVID, but politically divided, racially divided, and so forth.
And to persuade Americans that involvement in the world is in their interest is going to be a real challenge, on top of the actual international challenges themselves. So it all -- it all adds up to an extraordinarily daunting inbox for the 46th president.
ZAKARIA: Sam, I have a minute left, but I just want you to touch on one thing that you say in your Foreign Affairs piece, which is that China has also been making a series of blunders. It's not -- this is also a case where, you know, the Chinese efforts at spreading their influence have not been as successful as one might think.
POWER: Yeah, just to say that there's a real opening, right. China had four years to extend its influence in the world. Its favorability ratings in most of the world have, in fact, fallen over the course of this four years, as you've seen more and more coercive diplomacy, more of an effort to leverage by China, to leverage its economic investments, to, sort of, bully countries, to, for example, vote in China's way in international organizations.
As you've seen great generosity in terms of protective equipment, masks and so forth, but then turning around and saying "We need a statement or an anthem praising us" -- it just hasn't gone over that well. And there's a lot of concern about debt trap loans and so forth that have left developing countries vulnerable.
So no more than the U.S. has come off well in the pandemic in terms of showcasing its competence, China has not come off well, either. And so you now have these two models competing and a real chance, I think, for Biden to step up and show a different kind of leadership that's values-based, that's collaborative and that's not extortive in the same way.
ZAKARIA: Ambassador Samantha Power, Ambassador Richard Haass, pleasure to have both of you on.
When we come back, I will tell you one surprising thing about the vaccines that you probably don't know.
ZAKARIA: My book of the week, as you might have guessed, is Barack Obama's memoir, "A Promised Land." Many of you will buy it, so my recommendation is really to read it.
He tells the story well, paints the characters sharply, and gives you a keen sense of what he was thinking. One of the handful of political memoirs that will live in history.
And now for the last look. The announcements of the two successful COVID vaccine trials were lauded as a light at the end of the tunnel. But they should be celebrated for another reason, too, the immigrant achievements they underscore.
Take the partnership between the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech. The leaders of the two companies first connected over their shared immigrant status. Pfizer's CEO is a Greek immigrant to the U.S. and BioNTech's co-founder came to Germany from Turkey as a child.
And Cambridge-based Moderna is finding success with a workforce drawn from America's great melting pot. The CEO is French. The chief technology officer is Spanish. And the chief medical officer is Israeli. And Noubar Afeyan, the co-founder and chairman, was born in Lebanon to Armenian parents. He moved first to Canada, then settled in the U.S. after earning a Ph.D. at MIT.
Since then he has developed over 100 patents and helped found over 40 science and technology startup companies. And while exemplary, Afeyan's success story is hardly unique. A recent congressional report noted that a quarter of all new businesses in America are founded by immigrants.
This is especially true in the tech sector, where more than half of all the startups valued at $1 billion or more were founded by immigrants, according to the National Foundation For American Policy. In Silicon Valley, six out of every 10 highly skilled tech workers was actually born abroad, one study on the region's economy found.
So, as the pandemic forces us to stay indoors and rely more and more on technology, we are leaning more and more on foreign-born innovation. Whether you order food from DoorDash or Google the nearest testing site, message your co-workers on Slack or connect with your friends on Zoom, you are using a technology created by an immigrant.
It's not just in technology that the pandemic highlighted our reliance on foreign-born workers. Analysis by the Migration Policy Institute found that 38 percent of home health aides, 29 percent of physicians and 23 percent of pharmacists are immigrants, even though foreign-born workers make up only 17 percent of the overall workforce.
And for farm laborers, graders or sorters, that number jumps to 55 percent, according to the USDA. In fact, 70 percent of immigrants work in occupations that the federal government classified as essential during the pandemic.
In the midst of a pandemic that touched every continent of the globe, it is fitting that the extraordinary effort to develop vaccines has also been such a multinational project. It reminds us of the obvious truth. The best way to fight a global disease is through a global effort.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.