Bono: Following His Stardom To Person Of The Year
Bono, in Portland tonight with U2 at the Rose Garden, has been honored, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, as Time Magazine's Person Of The Year.
My first year at college my small dormitory was in need of an extreme makeover. Hallway walls pocked and stained with the legacy of too many unsanctioned parties and impromptu freestyle wrestling matches briefed incoming freshman that little studying went on behond them.
That year, on my floor, someone had the overdue idea of painting over this history. The new theme would be rock-and-roll. Permission was granted and the paint provided by the university, naturally some boringly neutral color. After the base coat dried, I painted Opus, jammin' large on his guitar by the water fountain. Someone else painted an exact album cover replica of Pink Floyd's The Wall from ceiling to floor by the bathroom. All over the dorm guys were getting inspired to paint their own walls.
Roommates from each room on our floor painted a rock band logo over their door. The usual favorites went up: The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Boston, The Who, and Pink Floyd. You could never have enough Floyd. Over my door went a U2 logo. "U2? Who the hell is that?" my floormates demanded. "You wait," I remember saying, "you'll see."
Less than two years later, U2 released The Joshua Tree, and soon everyone knew U2. And for two decades and many more great releases since, these four Irish high school friends have ridden a wave of superstardom that has yet to crest.
It's difficult to decide the most remarkable thing about this band. Is it the volume of their work, equaled in measure only by The Beatles, Elvis, and The Rolling Stones? Is it the timelessness of their music, that recordings from twenty years ago sound as fresh and as relevant today as then? Is it that now into their forties, these guys are still making new music and putting on shows better than just about anyone else? Or is it just the simple fact that for more than a quarter-century all this has been accomplished by the same four guys.
But remarkable as all these feats are, it is perhaps the emergence of lead singer Bono as universal ambassador for the world's many impoverished nations and its too many extreme poor that stands out, a role for which Time Magazine today honors Bono, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, as their Persons Of The Year. As well deserved as this honor is, the other members of the band - Larry, Adam, and The Edge - deserve credit for this as well, for allowing their bandmate the freedom to perform solo on a second stage, the world's political stage, in hopes of doing something large and lasting with his iconic stature.
Bono began to earn his ambassadorship by working tirelessly as part of the Jubilee 2000 Drop The Debt campaign to convince first-world governments to cancel the growth-stifling international debt of poor African nations. Only in July of this year was the debt deal affirmed by President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and the other leaders of the G8 at their summit at Gleneagles, Scotland. Despite that the deal reached called for immediate debt cancellation, the IMF and World Bank are dickering and dithering on how to implement it.
Then, in 2002, Bono joined with Bobby Shriver and others to found DATA (www.data.org), whose mission has been to work to bring people, organizations, leaders and politicians together from all over the world to stop the crises of Debt, AIDS, and Trade in Africa. As if that weren't enough, and despite launching a world concert tour on the heels of the band's latest recording, earlier this year Bono helped give birth to an even more ambitious campaign, the ONE campaign (www.one.org), whose aim is to end global extreme poverty.
With the ONE campaign, Bono is playing to the largest and toughest crowd he's ever faced: the Western world, whose comfortable citizens must become engaged in demanding their governments to do more to end the enormous misery endured by the peoples of faraway countries most cannot locate on a map. Unlike his concert audiences, this will not be an easy crowd to energize. But the defeat of global despair is indeed possible within our time, and more power to Bono for picking the fight.
Tonight, U2 ends its American tour with a concert here in Oregon. While that logo over my old dorm room has surely been painted many times over, tonight I'll be thinking about how far U2 and I have come since I painted it. Wearing my ONE bracelet, of Bono's campaign I'll be thinking: "You wait, you'll see."
Todd Huffman, M.D.
Todd Huffman is a pediatrician and political columnist for numerous publications. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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