Bono talks less social enterprise, more on Afro-nerds and activism
Legendary U2 rock star Bono was made to feel right at home when a full audience at Gaston Hall welcomed him Monday evening. Just when we thought Bono’s keynote address would focus on social enterprise and the power of social movements to foster change, his speech was more accurately about social activism, the economic recession in America, his view on the presidential debates, and Africa.
The event was co-sponsored by Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan and spearheaded by Professor Bill Neveli, the founder of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business. Bono thanked Moynihan, describing him as “a gentleman in a world where that quality isn’t always on tap,” for his help funding U2’s initiative to provide free music lessons to children in Ireland.
Bono opened his speech by mocking the political mudslinging during this past week’s presidential election. He admitted, jokingly, that he spends a good deal of time with politicians, and found the attack ad campaigns distasteful. The Washington Post recently reported that Bono has visited the White House five times in the past four years, including one private meeting with the president.
“I may need to grab another pint at The Tombs,” he joked. He found the political attack ads difficult to watch. “I’d rather see an attack ad on malaria…the riot of social activism.”
The singer discussed also touched on some serious issues and global health concerns, specifically those that plague Africa. Throughout his career, Bono has founded several initiatives and grassroots campaigns to address rampant poverty and disease in Africa.
“HIV-AIDS is the biggest obstacle to overcome…it’s so brutal that it laughs at the concept of equality and the change to end extreme poverty in the 21st century,” he said.
In reaction to the recent budget cuts to end famine and provide foreign countries with HIV medication, Bono made a special shout-out to those who have been the catalysts to bring about change in Africa.
“I want to thank Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID and Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House… we must not let economic recession become a moral recession—that would be double calamity.”
The singer then went on to share his personal experience in Mali playing at a musical concert outside Timbuktu.
“I saw things I couldn’t unsee…after I left, North Mali was taken over by terrorist groups…the hotel we stayed at was made into a Sharia tribunal, music was against the law…people were beaten to death.”
He also talked about the revolution in Egypt, and his relationship with the Jesuit faith. He asserted that the Jesuit faith has the power to motivate individuals to pursue human rights issues. “When you truly accept that those children in some far-off place in the global village have the same value as you in God’s eyes—or even just in your eyes—then your life is forever changed,” he said.
Pointing to Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, the singer optimistically encouraged that people do have the power to end corruption and big government.
“This is the era of the Afro-nerd,” he joked as the audience drum rolled. “Change is the air you breathe…you are it.”
His concluding message was to state that individuals have a moral obligation to serve others. “I think we’re all called to serve each other in that way, by God. Or, by a sense of common decency.”
Photo by Kirill Makarenko
Reporting by Ambika Tripathi