Bono calls for action in Africa

Modesty is one trait U2’s Bono cannot be accused of.

As he strolled onto the stage of the Washington Hilton Friday evening to the tune of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” his first words to the hundreds in attendance were, “You’ll have to forgive me if I’m nervous. I’m not used to crowds of less than 60,000.”

The cocky rock star wasn’t there for his music, though – he was there for a cause. No, cancel that – as he emphasized several times, “It’s not a cause – it’s an emergency.”

Lately, the artist has been known for his activism as much as his music. Recently named Time’s person of the year, Bono has been raising awareness of global health issues such as AIDS and malaria in Africa.

“Where you live in this world should not decide whether or not you should live,” he said, after stating that the number of people killed in the recent tsunami was the same number of people that die of disease in Africa every month.

Bono poked fun at the lobbyists in the audience throughout his hour-long speech.

“You’re not the most popular people in town,” he said to them, “but that’s not saying much – there aren’t many popular people in this town.”

However, Bono was in Washington to do some lobbying himself. He mentioned having meetings with President Bush and members of Congress the day before.

He asked the audience to contribute 10 percent of their income toward charitable causes in Africa each year.

“I asked it of the House (of Representatives), and now I ask it of you,” he said. “Think of it as an investment in homeland security.”

In his thick Irish brogue, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee also discussed his role in American politics.

“I am in love with this country, but I’m one of those annoying fans who reads the liner notes and asks questions, like ‘Why did you have a mullet in the 80s?’ or, ‘Did you sell out by playing the Super Bowl?'” he said. “I’ve read the Constitution. Those are some liner notes.”

The large crowd that attended the speech paid $95 per ticket. Susan Safarti, president and CEO of the Center for Association Leadership, the program’s sponsor, told The Hatchet that the admission price went toward venue rental and speaker’s fees for the multimillionaire singer.

The audience was able to submit questions prior to the speech. When asked what inspires him, Bono cited punk rock.

“When I first heard the Clash, it sounded like revolution – like a public service announcement,” he said.

He was also asked what was on his iPod.

“This is an exciting time for music,” he said, and listed the Killers and the Arcade Fire among his current favorites.

Bono was the second speaker in the Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series, sponsored by the Center for Association Leadership. Larry King will speak on April 18, and celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray will speak June 19.

To learn more about Bono’s One campaign, visit www.one.org.

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