Bono revived the ZooTV antic of calling a politician in front of an audience when he spoke at a rally in Philadelphia yesterday (May 16). On his mobile phone, Bono called Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) to let him know that he was in the senator’s homeland and the reason he was there: to participate in the launch of the One Campaign, a new effort to rally Americans to help fight global AIDS and poverty. Specter is credited for defeating an amendment proposed by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) that would have increased US funding for global AIDS to $3 billion in 2004.
U2log was on the scene in Philadelphia. A report with photos and a transcription of Bono’s speech are forthcoming. In the meantime, you may view photos from the rally at Getty Images and video at TheOneCampaign.org and KYW-TV Philadelphia. You may also read on for a transcript of CNN Sunday Night’s interview with Bono in Philadelphia.
CAROL LIN (host of CNN Sunday Night): You’d be pretty hard pressed to find a bigger rock star than Bono, but the lead singer of U2 has a softer side. He is one of the leading voices in the global fight against AIDS and poverty. And this weekend, he took that fight to Philadelphia for the One Campaign, a new effort to rally Americans to the cause. Bono is tonight’s newsmaker. I talked to him earlier.
BONO (in Philadelphia): Politicians are not afraid of me. Rock stars and student activists, they’re used to us and our placarding — but it’s church folk and soccer moms that the politicians are nervous of. Now politicians get really nervous when rock stars and student activists start hanging out with rich folk and soccer moms. That’s when they start getting uncomfortable and realize that they’re going to have to dig deeper.
And, by the way, there is a will to dig deeper in the United States Congress. I’m amazed across both sides of the aisle. People are waking up to the fact that there is a war against terror and it’s an expensive war to fight, but the war against poverty is necessary in the fight against — to win…
BONO: …in the fight against terror. We just have to look at the hard facts that, right now in the world, these are dangerous, nervous times. And people don’t know what to make of the United States…
LIN: And sometimes people don’t know…
BONO: …or Europe.
LIN: …what to make of you, Bono. And I think that’s what brings in the dollars and brings in the attention. For example, there’s a story out there, when you were trying to get $435 million out of Congress in your fight against AIDS and poverty around the world, that you actually said, “Listen, if these guys don’t cut the check, you know, U2 is going to go to the district, round up 50,000 kids, put them in a stadium, and put their picture, the Congressman, up on a 30-foot screen and announce to these kids that they are responsible for women and children in Africa dying.” I mean, is that a true story?
BONO: We’d rather not use that threat, but the threat of coming-to-a-stadium-near-you is always there because, you know, our community — the music community — is a very important one in politics because they haven’t necessarily made up their minds who they’re going to vote for. They’re the floating vote. So we’re saying, you know, vote your conscience, but don’t forget that the measure of a politician is sometimes doing the unpopular thing. It’s much easier to tend to domestic problems. We accept that it is to reach out to what’s happening in Africa and the AIDS emergency. But you know what? History is going to be very hard on us if we miss this. And our whole era will probably be remembered for three things: the Internet, the war against terror, and how we let an entire continent burst into flames or not.
LIN: Well, you know how to take advantage of the political equation too, because just this past week, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin actually pledged $50 million to your cause. Some of the cynics up there say that was his price actually for getting his picture taken with you for the possibility of a re-election.
BONO: Oh, at least I’m not a cheap date. By the way, it was $150 million.
LIN: 150 million?
BONO: Yes, and some serious pieces of legislation on the right for poor people to buy the cheapest drugs possible. Now Paul Martin did the right thing. And my job in this equation is to play criticism if people do the wrong thing, and supply applause when they do the right thing.
And the thing about the One Campaign that we launched today is there are a lot of groups doing the right thing from Health GAP here in Philadelphia, to World Vision, to Bread for the World. And we’re all working the same neck of the woods. But we have to start getting coordinated, getting organized. Then we’re a real political force.
BONO: I mean, the crowds you saw on the pictures, it looked like whatever it was. The truth of it is it was 3 million people there, because that’s how many people they represented with their various groups. That’s a serious force politically.
BONO: And this is important stuff.
LIN: And speaking of working, you’re still working. And I hear your next album is going to be your first rock and roll album? How’s it going?
BONO: It’s going great. I mean, I have to sneak out the bathroom window and down the drain pipe, you know. And sometimes it’s annoying to the band that I’m not there when they need me, but you know, they support what I’m doing. They know this is important stuff. And they know that, you know, their audience feels strongly about this. And so, they let me off work.
LIN (ending segment): And he’s still doing good work regardless. U2’s new album is coming out in September. Now Bono was coy about it. He couldn’t really tell us what it was called just yet. We’ll keep on it.