Bono: Ensuring America Keeps Its Promise
- Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 7 Jul
When a cavalcade of celebrities that included U2's dynamic front man Bono, actress Ashley Judd, and comic Chris Tucker toured the Midwest late 2002 to raise awareness for what Bono described as the "AIDS emergency" on The Heart of America Tour, the country was understandably skeptical of their intentions. Like any compassionate group, stars have their causes and hate to see fellow human beings suffer. Nevertheless, such campaigning for the DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa) organization certainly didn't hurt positive publicity that just so happened to coincide with a U2 greatest hits double disc and new films featuring his respective cohorts.
Now seven months after their original quest to educate schools, churches, and community members of this ongoing crisis, Bono's mission has proven to be more than just an opportunity to pack press kits with pleasantry—it's an ongoing quest to make sure their original promise of ending the African crisis is delivered and fully funded. "It feels very much like a Civil Rights movement for our generation because in the end it's about equality and we mustn't forget that," shared Bono over the phone to a select group of journalists from his Dublin home. "A human life has value to God wherever it lives and we're not being let off the hook with geographical location being an excuse for somebody's life to be wasted. There's an excitement being part of that movement."
The latest stretch of that movement is being referred to as "Keeping America's Promise," which is a national public education campaign that Bono and DATA has just implemented to coincide with President Bush's trip to Africa from July 8-12th. During that visit, the President is promoting the Millennium Challenge Account and the Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, which like DATA, commits America to help Africa fight the twin crises of AIDS and poverty.
"A lot of [those] who worked on The Heart of America Tour are the reasons why the president has put AIDS on the bill of his State of the Union speech," Bono continued on the phone call. "I believe the president is sincere in his convictions to put America up front in a way that hasn't been done before on these issues, but we have to make sure that his intentions are not undone [by Congress]. All of us involved need to [be] watching the process and not [be] fooled by a check written. It's not the check signing that I'm impressed with; it's getting the check cashed. If the Millennium Challenge Account and the AIDS initiative go through, we have to be prepared to really stand up and applaud this president's leadership because it is potentially life changing and life saving for millions of people."
Regardless of the progressive steps being made to aid Africa, Bono pointed out that there are still thousands upon thousands dying from the disease with the inability to receive proper treatment because of the enormous debt the continent already holds over its head. It's with this appalling thought that the normally cool, calm, and collective rock star sighs with frustration, disgruntled that the sometimes slow political intervention process and international red tape. "It is frustrating that people are dying of a treatable disease—a shocking, appalling number like 7,000 today and [then] tomorrow," he said with an angry tone. "[Regardless] we have to give President Bush credit for [upping] the ante with his State of the Union speech, not just with the money—nailing his colors to the map and agreeing to this trip was a crucial component."
To supplement the president's overseas efforts, several "Keeping America's Promise" rallies will be staged throughout the coming months, which in keeping with The Heart of America Tour's tradition will focus on spiritual centers, learning institutions, and localized community centers in hopes of spreading the awareness and subsequent action from the grassroots on up. For Bono in particular, getting to meet with these various groups since December has led him to a greater appreciation of America as a whole, especially the churches that he previously viewed with cynicism.
"I didn't have a very good impression of the church up to that point, in the sense of their ability to sort of wake the sleeping giant and put it to work for the world's most vulnerable," he admitted to ChristianityToday.com. "I kind of thought the church was asleep and it turned into a 'holy-bless-me club' or whatever you want to call it, [but] I'm glad to say I was wrong. Particularly evangelicals, who seemed very judgmental to me over the years, turned out to be incredibly generous in their time and their support of this effort. I've really had my view of the church turned upside down, but I will be honest. … it's ruined things for me now. People are asking "why aren't I at mass?" It's a [challenge], but it's [also] given me great faith in the church. I have always had it in God.
As for whether or not Bono's participation in DATA's efforts and close monitoring of President Bush's AIDS related actions will be the springboard for his own venturing into politics someday, U2 fans need not hold their breath as this singer plans to stick to his day job. "I think as the old adage goes, I wouldn't move to a smaller house," he said laughing. "I don't think my job is politics. I think my job is to break the ground for politicians to allow our activists to sow seeds. Ideas of changes have always come from culture. In a healthy democracy and society there should always be exchange between the art, economics and politics. … Great ideas and great melodies have a lot in common [and] this is one of them."