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November 26th, 2020
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U2 Joshua Tree Tour 2019
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U2's Bono Goes To Harvard

Posted on Thursday, June 07 @ 14:12:38 CEST by macphisto

(Launch.com) -- U2 singer Bono, dressed in a green suit, white V-neck shirt, backwards camouflage cap, and blue-shaded glasses, gave an engaging 20-minute talk to an audience of 6,000 Harvard seniors and family on Wednesday (June 6). As he pleaded for relief in the crushing debt load of developing nations and Africa's AIDS epidemic, and spoke of "fighting indifference versus making a difference," the college dropout distinguished himself as the latest in an impressive list of Harvard Class Day guests that has included Mother Teresa, playwright Arthur Miller, and Ralph Nader.

"My name is Bono, and I am a rock star," said the singer, slightly hoarse from the previous night's two-hour show in Boston. "I tell you this not as a boast but more as a kind of confession. Because in my view the only thing worse than a rock star is a rock star with a conscience, a celebrity with a cause. Worse yet is a singer with a conscience, a placard-waving, knee-jerking activist with a Lexus and a swimming pool shaped liked his head."

Though some may see Bono as preachy, if not pretentious, his commitment to action is a breath of fresh air among the screaming rock slogans that often masquerade as social consciousness. "Rock music to me is rebel music, but rebelling against what?" Bono continued. "If I'm honest, I'm rebelling against my own indifference. I'm rebelling against the idea that the world is the way the world is, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. So I'm trying to do a damn thing."

Bono was at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus because of the friendship he formed with economics professor Jeffrey Sachs. The singer had sought out Sachs because of his studies on the lack of development in Third World countries, due to the old debt that those economies have been carrying for generations. Bono had approached Sachs as a representative of Jubilee 2000, a group formed to get those debts canceled, and enlisted him in the campaign.

"Then Sachs and I, with my friend Bobby Shriver, hit the road like some sort of surreal crossover road show," Bono said. "A rock star, a Kennedy, and a noted economist crisscrossing the globe like the Partridge Family on psychotropic drugs. We had the Pope kind of acting as our agent. We had the blessing of various rabbis, evangelists, trade unions, and PTAs. It was a new level of unhip for me. But it was very cool."

Bono's crusade has earned him audiences with President Clinton and the Pope, who donned the singer's "Fly" sunglasses for a photo shoot (subsequently squashed by the Vatican). But the singer has been more than a celebrity mouthpiece--he's been a successful activist. Bono testified before the U.S. Congress, which subsequently passed a $435 million debt-relief package, and rallied significant players in the debt-relief cause, including former U.S. Treasury Secretary and incoming Harvard president Lawrence Summers. Such efforts have already yielded notable improvements in education and medicine in countries like Uganda and Mozambique.

"When people around the world hear about the burden of debt that crushes the poorest countries," Bono said. "When they hear for every dollar of government aid that we send to developing nations, nine dollars comes back to us in debt-service payments. When people hear that, they get angry."

However, Bono cited, it's hard to get people involved an era that finds the culture of idealism "under siege" and "reduced to a marketing tool." He warned of the innate danger of indifference to problems like "the everyday holocaust that is Africa," referring to continent's bubonic plague-like epidemic of 25 million HIV positives.

"I'm not hear to brag, not to take credit or even to share it, and not just to say thanks. I think I've come here to ask your help. Because this is a big problem, and we need some smart people working on it.

"It's hard to make this a popular cause. It's hard to make it 'pop,' and I guess that's what my job is. Pop is sadly often the oxygen of politics. Didn't John and Robert Kennedy come to Harvard? Isn't equality a sonofabitch to follow through on? Isn't 'love they neighbor in the global village' so inconvenient? God writes us these lines, but we have to sing them, and take them to the top of the charts. But it's not what the radio is playing, is it?"

-- Tristram Lozaw, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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