BONO from U2 in Portland on Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa (DATA) Speaking Tour
DATA = Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa -- Bono believes that since this is the defining moral issue of our age, we should all consider joining DATA. Another meaning for the anacronym he suggested we could use, one that could help to have within all the work we do in other realms of activism might be- Democracy, Accountability, Transparency... in Africa.
Rose Garden - Theatre of the Clouds - hosts BONO, lead singer for U2 October 20, 2004
From the program: "BONO - U2 Lead Singer and Global Activist
Bono, co-founder of DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) and long-time activist, is a champion for a greater worldwide response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and pverty devastating Africa. He is the lead singer of the internationally renowned rock group U2, who have integrated music and politics since the early 1980's, with songs dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Ireland, and other social issues.
In 1985, the band participated in the Live Aid/We are the World fundraising concert, which raised $200 million in aid for Ethiopia. Since that concert, Bono has used his celebrity status to gain access to top world leader, pressuring rich governments to increase resources for Africa and improve policies that impact African countries.
Bono's influence can be measured in concrete terms. As part of the Jubilee 2000 Drop the Debt campaign, he delivered a petition containing 21.2 million signatures to the UN Millenium Summit, asking them to cancel Third World debt. By the end of the year 2000, G7 leaders had committed to writing off $110 billion in debts owed by the world's poorest nations.
Two years later, together with Bobby Shriver and other Jubilee 2000 activists, he co-founded DATA. The organization uses a combination of expert policy, hardheaded advocacy and celebrity to persuade politicans from Europe, the US and the Far East to put more resources into Africa. In 2002, DATA sent Bono and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to Ghana, South Africa, Ugnada and Ethiopia to draw attention to the acute needs of the poverty-stricken region. Along with Chris Tucker and Ashley Judd, he did a speaking tour called Heart of America about America's leadershiprole in fighting global AIDS. In 2004, the US incerased foreigh assistance to the poorest countries by $2billion - the largets increase in 40years - including a historic initiative to fight AIDS in Africa.
Bono continues to open the eyes - and the doors - of world leaders today with his commitment, his rock-star fame, and perhaps most of all, his sincere message that poverty and AIDS in Africa are surmountable problems.
Bono was born May 10, 1960, in Dublin, Ireland. He and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married 22 years. They live in Dublin with their four children.
Before Bono came onstage, the host of the International Speaker Series let us know that Gov Kulongoski has declared Oct 20th to be the day to move on from Awareness To Action. Apparently, this day has been pronounced Awareness to Action Day to inspire people to work in the interest of others for the rest of the year!
Another announcement was that on Dec 11th there will be a student action involvement day in Beaverton at a High School - details at www.worldoregon.org
A Harvard Professor Emeritus spoke at length on Unconditional Love and Mutual Aid, I didn't catch the speaker's name. He told how the multiple tours BONO has been instrumental in organizing since the early '80's has established BONO as a political voice lobbying countries to cancel world debt for the poorest countries, and billions in debt reduction has happened in large part to BONO's efforts.
Bono finally took the stage, and told an amazing story of how 23 years ago when his (then very obscure) band first came to Portland to play at the Foghat - the suitcase with the entire lyrics and music for what was to be U2's third album (something October) was stolen. So the album never happened... and the day of this event, the contents of the suitcase was returned to Bono!!
Bono pointed out that Songs of Protest have always been around, but that ironically, musicians and politics don't always go together. Presumably this is because preaching politics and then lacking accountability and walking the talk is often the result with a musician's lifestyle.
Bono grew up in Dublin in the '70's, and said that the music of the day woke him up to the issues in the world. He heard the Clash play at age 17. The music sounded to Bono like there was a revolution going on, and he was disappointed to find out that these were not in reality activists working for real change to happen in the world. At that time he didn't realize that the biggest obstacle to political and social programs being changed is/was a combination of our own indifference and the Kafkyesh numbers of people working for change who are killed.
Bono's 1984 tour started with Bob Geldoff -- I didn't catch the connection, but in 1985 the Live Aid/We Are the World Fundraising Concert issued a challenge to feed the world, a tour which raised $200 million in aid for Ethiopia. Bono told a touching story of when he and his wife visited Ethiopia for a month, how they found Africa to be a magical place, with big minds and big hearts. "Ethiopia didn't just blow my mind, it opened my mind" - He relates how on the last day of their visit a man offered his baby to Bono to take home with him. The man knew that in Africa his child wouldn't survive, but that if it were raised elsewhere, it would have a chance. Bono didn't take the man's baby. Bono said that at that moment, he became a rock star with a cause.
"Except that this is not a Cause, This is an Emergency"....
In Africa, there are 61/2 thousand people dying daily, because they lack the drugs we can get in any pharmacy. There are right now 11 million orphans as a result of the AIDES epidemic, and there will be 20 million by the end of the decade.
Every day 9 thousand will catch AIDS because of astigmatization and lack of education.
"This is not a Cause. This is an Emergency."...
Most importantly this is not about charity. It's about Justice; The right to live as a human being. This is an unprecedented threat to human dignity.
Justice is a tougher standard than simple charity/piety. There is no way this would be allowed to happen anywhere else. The fight in our countries hasn't been won either, but Africa is bursting into flmaes. If we honestly believed that Africans were equal to us, we would never allow that to happen. If this were unsolvable, this would be easy, but it's not unsolvable. It's brutal; Equality for Africans is a big, but not entirely insurmountable.
We can do a lot more than we're doing about the problem in Africa and here regarding corruption, and demanding that grandchildren pay back huge debts is one place we can start. We don't let the poorest countries put their products on our shelves, yet we flood their markets with our products.
Ours is the first generation that can actually work together across oceans/continents with each other, to say that this is not okay, to really work together to change things. For the first time in history, we have the know-how, we have the drugs, but do we have the will.
"This is not a cause.... [audience response: "This is an an Emergency!"]
"The War against Terror is Bound up in the War against Poverty". Bono emphasizes that this is not a statement that he himself first came up with, and points out that "when a military man says the war can't be won by military might alone, maybe someone should take notes...:"
40% of Africa is Muslim. Poverty Breeds Violence. Isn't it smarter in turbulent times to make friends out your enemies rather than fight them?
A great advertisement for American Technology would be your great anti-retroviral drugs. We will not only transform lives and communities of the people who get these drugs, we will transform the way these people see us.
After WW II the U.S. stuck around to rebuild Europe, at a cost of 1% of your GNP as a bulwark for Russia during the Cold War. For half that cost, we can provide a bulwark now in the Hot War.
Extremists are establishing order all over Africa.....
At this point Bono broke the ice a bit, reminding us that he is not wearing flowers in his hair, and never has, that his origins are from Punk Rock, that he is wearing Army Boots, not Birkenstocks. He wants us to understand that this is a reasoned argument, that it may be based on idealism, (which is under siege everywhere, by all these -isms, especially narcissism) but that it is about pragmatism as well. Bono invites us all to partake in some pragmatic action, rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in making real change happen. "America has always been about that. Americanism depends on your definition - I'm a huge fan of America; I love America because it's not just a country, it's an idea... I love the idea that with Power brings Responsibility, that Equality is the highest calling and the hardest to reach, that the moon is achievable."
Bono relates how Ben Franklin spent 3 months in Ireland and Scotland to see if it could be a model for American governmental structuring. He was very distressed by what he saw, how England had a stranglehold on Irish trades and how wealthy absentee landlords kept the Irish impoverished and subsisting chiefly on potatoes. At this point he reminds everyone in the audience who is Irish that, "Hey The Famine is Over - You Can Come Home Now!!" - reminding us that there has been a steady emigration into this country by the Irish since it's inception.
Bono then brings us back to what reality is to him and what it can be for all of us: " The Spirit we [Irish] love and that the world needs now is that there's no hurdle we can't win. "
This year DATA has been launching it's "One Campaign" - the concept that the actions of one person can change a lot, but the actions of many acting as one can change an awful lot.
The Presidential election will be over an a couple weeks, well at least we hope it will..... But Congress is who decides how many $$ are allocated to give the gift of debt relief to Africa. Bono emphasizes that it's OUR job to tell politicians how to do right by Africa, to do right by America, and for the good of the world!
It is often said that there are 2 political parties big enough to build a tent big enough for all of us - this is the best reason we can have for getting out of bed in the morning.
The idea of WHERE you live in the world should not determine WHETHER you live.
Every generation has it's own struggle, but the struggle in Africa is ours work on. This generation will be remembered for the following three things:
1) The Internet
2) The Terror War
3) AIDES in Africa, a continent in flames, and what we did or did not do about it.
Congressman Lento, who was a child during the holocaust, who went on the trains to the concentration camps, tells his story in the following way: Worse than the memories of being sent to the camps and the horrors he endured living in them, was the faces of those who stood by watching in silence, without asking where these children were going.
Lento wrote Bono a letter - We are watching these people going on the trains and we know where they are going - nowhere.
Bono stirred the audience to emotional cheering and clapping when he said,
" We will NOT watch in silence, watching the trains take them away! We will go down to the tracks and we will lay across them!"
Then Bono introduced a woman who they met in Uganda. She is a nurse there, Agnes, from and AIDES support organization called TAZO. She and the other nurses were going around educating families about AIDES, to prevent the spread and they themselves were not taking anti-retroviral drugs. This was unbelievable to Bono, that even these educators were not valued enough to receive medical help.
Agnes said "I'm here to tell you my story of AIDES in my family as example of what so many are going through in Africa" Her story is that in 1991 her husband got sick and died of AIDES in 1992. Agnes also tested positive. They had 10 children. It was very worrying knowing that she was going to die and live 10 orphans. But God gave her the strength and will to live.
Just after Agnes' husband died, her 17 year old son had a mental breakdown because he know we were all going to die. He got better, but because he had been out of his mind and had spoken to others about the fact that their parents had HIV+, he was bullied and assaulted and endured a lot of hardship. In 1993, her boy just disappeared, and has never been seen or heard from since.
Agnes' youngest son was 3 1/2 years old when her husband died. He started falling sick at age 5, and before that had had no sign of illness. He tested HIV + and then was sick for 1 1/2 years and then died of pneumonia. This was very painful for Agnes, and she felt she should talk about the problems of AIDES to families so others wouldn't have to go through this. She has since educated many people, schools, villages.
But then Agnes' health began to fail. In 2002 when Bono came to Uganda, she started taking anti-retroviral drugs. This helped her to regain her energy, her weight started coming back, she started walking again, and finally she feels she's not going to leave her children orphaned.
But she's not happy taking her medication, along with only 26 others when her friends are still dying.
She "felt if only all of us could start on this treatment, we could all live. The treatment was there, yes, but it is very expensive, and most can't afford it."
"I want to thank all of those who support Bono in sending letters to your presidents and senators. Now 7,000 more have started on free treatment in Uganda. And for cancelling the debt for Uganda - now kids are getting free primary education. And thank you people in Portland - there are more people in Africa who need more - to save more children. And I'd like to ask you to whenever you are called on, to write letters and to send messages. Please do it to save the lives of people in Africa. "
There were a lot of questions, including how to address corrupt governments here and in Africa. I thought Bono handled them all well, giving hope and tangible evidence that when policies are tried to address corruption, they have been working. He also completely debunked the myth that anti-retroviral regimens may not be followed by Africans receiving the lifesaving drugs - citing studies that show Africans are more likely to follow the regimen without a medical doctor's supervision than many here in this country do even with a doctor.
I will add the Q&A discussion later as comments to this reportback if I get a chance. I might also be able to answer some questions posted to this article if you ask - I would like this article to generate discussion and ideas on what we can do to work toward ending the injustices in Africa, and possibly in other countries as well. And I would also like to know what people who read and contribute to this website are currently doing, or what people would like to start doing, as well as how the rest of us can get involved in programs already in existence, including religious organizations.
DATA = Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa -- Bono believes that since this is the defining moral issue of our age, we should all consider joining DATA. Another meaning for the anacronym he suggested we could use, one that could help to have within all the work we do in other realms of activism might be- Democracy, Accountability, Transparency... in Africa
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