In 1984, he took part in Band-Aid, the African relief effort started by fellow Irish musician, Bob Geldof. The Live Aid concerts of 1985 followed and Bono’s life was forever changed.
In the summer of 1985, Bono and his wife quietly took a trip to Ethiopia to visit the poor. The children gave him a nickname, “the girl with the beard,” because of his sparkly earrings.
"Ethiopia didn’t just blow my mind,” he said. “It opened my mind.”
On one of his last days there, a father tried to give his infant son to Bono. He asked him to take the baby to Ireland and raise him. If he stayed in Ethiopia, the father knew his son would die. Bono had to say no. It is a feeling he can’t ever forget. And in that moment, he became a rock star with a cause.
Today, children in Africa die of malaria, the AIDS epidemic is sweeping the country with more than six million people dying every day.
“This is not a cause,” he said. “This is an emergency.”
History will judge us, he told the crowd, by how we treat Africa. No where else in the world would such poverty and illness be allowed to exist. If we don’t value the lives if Africans, he said, why should they value ours?
“This is not about charity,” he said. “It is about justice.”
Providing aid to Africa is not only the moral thing to do, he said, it is the smart thing to do. Poverty breeds despair. Despair breeds violence. Violence leads to terrorism.
More than 40 percent of Africans are Muslim. A better world, is a safer world, he said. The United States is not the most popular country in the world right now, he said. But we can change that by becoming a leader in African relief.
Bono loves the States he told the crowd. He has read the Constitution. He has been to Independence Hall. But power brings responsibility.
In 1780, Benjamin Franklin went to Ireland for three months, he said.
“He went to Scotland too, but who cares,” Bono said to laughter.
Franklin was distressed at how the English oppressed the Irish. So instead of the government of Ireland inspiring the United States, it was the other way around. The Irish and Americans are very alike in their compassion and ability to give.
Despite the tsunami, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, we must give more – to Africa. Every generation has its struggle, he said. This is ours.
“We are being watched. By history and by God.”
His speech made me want to get involved, spread the word and be accountable. I am glad I went. I am glad WAC asked him to be a speaker. So cool.
After Bono was presented with the award, several hundred people in the crowd walked a few blocks to the University Museum for a cocktail reception. I was wearing black beaded shoes, a black dress with a floral print, eye shadow, curled hair and a whole lot of Beautiful perfume. I was ready.
Inside the museum, I got a beer (in an elegant wine glass) and sought out the hors d’oeuvres. Crab and briein phyllo dough. Yum!!! I had a few of those. Near me stood a woman, in her late 40s or 50s, with a backpack and clutching a sheaf of papers.
The waiter tried to offer her a crab snack.
“I am not here to eat!” she snapped at him.
Unable to control my curiosity and because I am a nosy journalist, I had to ask: “So why are you here?”
“To give Bono these papers” she said, clutching white paper in a blue binder.
“What is it? A subpoena?” I asked.
“No,” she said, looking at me as if I were crazy. Uh huh. “Someone has to be in charge. His management company knows about this!”
O-kayyyyyyy, I thought and moved away. I later found out that this particular fan has a Bono altar, to which she prays, and thinks that Bono’s managers are evil and she must get him away from them. I have no idea what the papers said but I don’t believe she ever gave them to him. I also don’t know what the heck was in that backpack.
More hors d’oeuvres, but this time weird eggplant on lettuce leaves. Bleh.
I talked with Marie, a recent graduate of Temple University, who works as a cancer researcher and wants to be a doctor. We both wanted to get more beverages but were afraid to move in case Bono came out and we missed him.
About fifteen minutes later, the waiter came out with chicken-on-a-stick! Yes! I scarfed up some and was busy gnawing away when I noticed that Bono had come out all the way on my left. Shoot! There were a lot of people between me and him.
The guards made a human barricade and forced us all behind their arms. I took my chicken with me and stood right behind the guard. I think his arm was on my chest, but not on purpose.
I realized that Bono, led by Claudia and flanked by his bodyguard, was working his way down the line. And I was in the front! For once in my life, I was in the right spot!!!
He got closer. And closer. Grown men and women all around me started going a little nuts. There was shoving! Hey people, this is not a mosh pit!
Claudia was saying sternly, “No autographs! No autographs!” But some people still shoved paper at Bono and he still signed some.
He got closer. Wow. It was weird to see someone I have watched so many times since 1983, but this time he was RIGHT NEAR ME.
His stubble looked adorable. His chin is pronounced. His hair is thick and lovely. I wish I could see his eyes through his shades. I LOVE HIM!!!!!
He got very close. The couple behind me shoved a photo at him and shouted something about their wedding or his wedding and the “Unforgettable Fire” album. I have no idea. He snatched the picture and looked at it.
“You can keep it,” they said. Uh, okay.
He is in front of me. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. Time stood still. I looked at him. He was grabbing hands and pieces of paper. I must say something. I must seize the moment. This is what came out of my mouth:
“I love you, but not in a creepy way,” I said.
He looked back at me, put his right hand on my right shoulder and squeezed it while he held it there for a moment. He chuckled as he walked on. I HAD MADE BONO LAUGH!!!!!!!!!!!! On my right, a couple shoved a copy of the “War” album at Bono for his signature. “No autographs!” Claudia scolded.
Off to my right, I saw Backpack Woman with her glasses glinting in the light. Luckily, she looked a little bit further in the back. Bono walked on and then into the fancy dinner. And that was it.
Sigh. I will never wash my shoulder again. But I will work to end poverty and AIDS in Africa. And so should youJ