Opinion

Bono is not a skeptic

This past Sunday, James Traub did an impressively insightful cover story on Bono: The Statesman in New York Times Magazine about Bono’s journey along the path of advocating for the poor.

Here are some of the highlights I liked in the story:

  • Bono knows how to “ask big” and celebrate partial progress. Bono praised Chirac at a U2 Paris conference in spite of Chirac’s incomplete support. Guess who called him later and asked to work more closely with him?
  • Bono knows how to align himself with both the left and the right. He appeals to different people in different ways for the sake of the “emergency” of poverty.
  • Bono thanks people – big and small. He signs every item fans extend to him to sign. He thanks major leaders for their actions and the impact that they will have. Bono praised the Bush administration for the commitment to the Millennium Challenge Account (for funding AID relief in Africa) even though it had conditions attached to it that he didn’t approve of. Notice, he thanked people, not the program.
  • Bono trusts people taking them at their word. When Condoleeza Rice privately made a verbal committed that the Bush administration would later make a historic commitment to fight AIDS, Bono trusted her and gave them his support even though that promise was not made public. Rice delivered.
  • Bono likes to sing his messages. When asked why he preferred a goal of canceling all of the debt in Africa instead of the, then current, 2/3’s cancellation, he said that you can’t sing about two-thirds of something. Instead, “it has to feel like history … incrementalism leaves the audience in a snooze.” Singing for Bono includes speeches and press conferences.
  • U2 has always stood for something positive. Rock for stopping bad things and Rock in favor of good things. Compare that with other rock bands.
  • Bono loves the world – he isn’t full of angst. This is so opposite to the angry words so many advocates have for others.
  • Bono likes to hear the whole story. After meeting with Jeffrey Sachs to hear his opinion, he asked Sachs to find him an academic who opposed his perspective.
  • Bono speaks unspoken dreams. “My generation wants to be the generation that ended extreme poverty.”
  • Bono say “yes and yes.” He calls for responsibility for the aid recipient as well as the aid donor.
  • Bono calls on everyone to be their best. Nothing less, nothing more.
  • Bono is in for the long haul. He decided to go low profile last week in New York for UN summit on Millennium Development Goals because of America’s focus on Katrina. Do you think that his quietness reflects any less passion for the MDGs?

Traub says that it isn’t Bono’s belief in the issue [of eliminating extreme poverty] that is so effective; it is his belief in others.”

And most importantly, Bono is not a skeptic. Yeah, I’m really tired of skeptics!

Oh yeah, and Bono like Brunello 😉

UPDATE: Bono also answered questions in the New York Times. He’s asked about microcredit and talks about his meeting with Dr. Yunus. Bono offers this quote: “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Give a woman microcredit, she, her husband, her children and her extended family will eat for a lifetime.”

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