On the Campaign Trail with Bono
- Saturday, May 01, 2004
Bono and Co. were quickly escorted to the site of the rally after this. I soon followed, and noticed the meager crowd had grown to a more respectable size. Colorful ethnic music and dances served as the preamble for the speakers for the day, which included all of the press conference participants, as well as the lovely Agnes Nyamayarwo, a Ugandan nurse who's witnessed first-hand the toll poverty and AIDS have taken on Africa.
I was somewhat worried how the event would be received by the general public—not so much because of the ideals embraced by the ONE initiative, but because of the event's deeply evangelical overtones. The emcee, for example, was Rev. Herbert Lusk, whose impassioned parlance and opening prayer were offered as if the event were a church service. Immediately following his prayer, Bread for the World president David Beckmann gave a short speech and prayed. I wondered if such blatant displays of faith would turn would deter a non-religious person from supporting the cause, fearing they might be endorsing a particular religious agenda in doing so.
Opting not to give a speech like everybody else, Michael W. Smith chose to treat attendees to a musical performance. Though not written with Africa in mind, he said "Healing Rain"—a new song slated for his fall release—could perfectly apply to the situation, as we're all in dire need of God's healing. He got a chuckle out of the crowd when he started the song by singing a line from the chorus of "Pride (In the Name of Love)," but quickly pointed out that he was only kidding.
Finally the big moment came. Bono is quite a character, and you never know what he may have up his sleeve. I'm used to seeing him in full rock star mode, so when he started describing his plans for the ONE Campaign, it was hard to reconcile his humble soft-spokenness with his much-publicized FCC-defying persona. But Africa means a lot to him, and that made me understand why he'd much sooner give up being a music idol than let the afflicted continent die out. After all, aren't his ongoing attempts to save the world forcing U2 to push back its much-delayed 12th studio album?
But Bono loves and believes in America, too. Who other than the renowned Irish rocker would kick off a humanitarian campaign less than two blocks from where the Liberty Bell was first rung, or just around the corner from Independence Hall? Why would Bono choose the birthplace of this country as the starting point for the ONE Campaign? He said it best: "Ring the Liberty Bell. America is not just a country. It's an idea. A great idea where anything is possible: 'Hey, that's the moon up there; let's get up there, take a walk, and bring a piece back.' That's the America I'm a fan of.
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