Monday, May. 08, 2006


When I was first told in 2000 that Bono wanted to meet with me to talk about boosting U.S. aid to Africa, I didn't know who he was. But my Senate staff certainly did. After so many years in Washington, I had met enough people to quickly figure out who is genuine and who is there for show. I knew as soon as I met Bono that he was genuine. He had his facts in hand and didn't have any agenda other than doing all he could to help people in desperate need.

Along with Franklin Graham, Bono, 45, helped me understand the scope of the tragedy in Africa, especially the pain it is bringing to infants and children and their families. Once I understood, I made both men a promise that I would do all I could to help. Senator Bill Frist and I were allies in creating and passing a bill to commit $200 million to fight AIDS in Africa. The challenges are still enormous, but I think there can be a very good future for Africa if the cycles of death, poverty and armed conflict can be overcome.

I admire Bono's dedication and his willingness to make decisions. There is no pretense about him. In fact, he has opened himself up to criticism because he has been willing to work with anyone to find help for these children. After our first meeting, he invited me to be his guest at a U2 concert. My grandchildren were only too happy to come along. Bono enjoys telling people that I said watching the audience swaying to the music reminded me of a cornfield rustling in the wind. It was also a reminder of the millions he manages to touch every day with his music and his heart.

Helms is a former Senator from North Carolina