Warren Buffett and Bill Gates answered questions from more than 700 cheering Columbia University students gathered in a campus auditorium for a 90-minute CNBC Town Hall event that will air at 9p ET tonight.
Despite the nation's economic problems and bleak job prospects for many of those attending, the mood has been very upbeat.
Gates said he's excited to be here to share his "optimism."
The early questions addressed Buffett and Gates' views of capitalism in the wake of the massive financial crisis that has rocked the world over the last year. Buffett says there were some difficult times but he never had a doubt that the American "way of life" would survive.
Speaking of the severe problems last fall at the height of the crisis, Buffett said, "Our economy was sputtering" and "is still sputtering some."
Gates says American capitalism will need some "tuning" but the basic system is strong.