In the spring of 2000, when we were working to secure $435 million in debt relief for the developing world that President Clinton had promised, a friendly legislator took Bono and me to a private office near the U.S. Capitol. "I think we can make a deal at about $200 million," the lawmaker said. He had been told that by "certain people." We knew that the prior offer was just $60 million to $70 million. "Declare victory and go home," our friend advised.
Bono said, "No, we need the full $435 million." There was an awkward moment. "And another thing," Bono continued. "If 'certain people' fight it, tell them U2 will come to their districts, get 50,000 kids in a stadium and put their photo on 30-ft. screens with the caption, 'This guy killed African women and children.'"
That's punk rock. And that's why Bono is a hero. Not because he's a rock star, but because he's a rock star who is willing to spend time on things that are tedious and boringlike long sessions with Senators and Administration officials and meetings at the World Bank and the IMF on torpid Washington Saturday mornings.
Here's the answer. When Bono and his wife Ali first went to Africa, they worked in a refugee camp for a month. On the day they were leaving, a man approached him carrying a baby. "This is my son," the man said. "Please take him with you when you leave. If you do, he will live. Otherwise he will die."
I have heard Bono tell that story several times. Each time, I think he is haunted by the unacceptable fact that any father should be faced with such a choice and by the horror that this unjust moment is repeated every day across Africa. He has dedicated his life to making sure that such extreme poverty comes to an end.
Shriver, with Bono, co-founded the Debt AIDS Trade Africa
From the Archive
Bono: The world's biggest rock star is also Africa's biggest advocate. But Bono knows he has to make the case for aid with his head, not his heart
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