Irish rock singer Bono began a three day trip to Washington Monday and urged Congress and the Obama administration to not cut the U.S. foreign aid budget despite ongoing economic woes. He also stopped by Georgetown University on Monday evening to rally students to the cause of social activism. His full remarks can be viewed here as the event was broadcast live on C-Span.
The well-known artist and activist was in fine form as he mixed humor, calls for social justice, and hard policy facts and figures in the 45-minute address at Healy Hall. He even pulled off a fine Bill Clinton impersonation, much to the delight of students and a handful of dignitaries in the audience.
Bono has been working on poverty-related issues for years. He collaborates with top development experts such as Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and has developed his own organizations in support of investment, trade, and aid.
He also works closely with influential politicians such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), both of whom were in attendance Monday night along with US AID Administrator Rajiv Shah and policy wonk extraordinaire Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation.
Despite these deep connections to the political and policy elite, the thrust of his message was for everyone with a computer and a cell phone. Many of the world's social and economic issues stem from disease and poverty, but the most vicious is corruption by politicians and other power brokers. Social media and other technological innovations are decreasing the gaps between the power of politicians and people, but the latter need to be aware and involved if these gaps are to further erode. Transparency is vital to continued progress and Bono made a convincing, if somewhat idealistic, case for the expansion of democracy.
The great majority of attendees were Georgetown students and fans of Bono's band, U2. The first two people in line were Wyatt Smith and John Collins, both juniors. Collins mentioned he had supported Bono since he was five, had been to over 20 concerts, and that this visit was "a dream come true."
Bono is "a great person, admirable for his work on Aids and presence in front of government officials," Collins said. Smith said he "loves the music" and is "taken by the charitable work, beginning with the 1984 Live Aid concert."
Both just so happened to be Irish. For a night, your correspondant was a paddy (meant in the complimentary sense!) as well, as Bono inspired and showed what true artists do by moving souls.