On Sunday (May 16) Bono spoke at a rally in Philadelphia that launched the One Campaign, a new effort to rally Americans to help fight global AIDS and poverty. U2log offers a transcription of Bono’s speech and photos from the event (click the link below).
All photos and speech transcription by Ruth Barohn for U2log. Click on the photos for a larger version.
[Bono takes the podium following Agnes Nyamayarwo’s speech]
What a woman. What an extraordinary, gorgeous girl, woman. And, you know, I’ve heard Agnes tell her story before. I still can’t quite believe it. I can’t quite imagine how she can tell it, how she can dare to remember what she’s been through. And she’s told it to senators, presidents and I just feel sorry for them sitting in front of her, actually, because the hardest heart, her voice can thaw. She’s extraordinary. Agnes, we are just so happy that you’re here in my hometown, Philadelphia.
Yeah, a little more than a year ago, Agnes and I and a motley crew rode around the heart of America in a bus — a big old bandwagon — trying to get people to get on board for the next step in the journey of equality. That next step is Africa.
Africa: beautiful, shining continent. It was a weird, weird bunch of people on that bus. Chris Tucker was on this bus. Ashley Judd was on that bus. Students, soccer moms, smokers, nonsmokers, bankers, wankers — all on the bus — and church folks on that bus, praise the Lord! Rock stars and people with their mouths more under control than I.
Will Smith rang me before and said, “I wanted to be on that bus and I will be on that bus in the future.” He said, “Say hello to my hometown, Philadelphia.” We are on the same bus because we share the same beliefs: that Africa, an entire continent, is on fire and that the people of America can put that fire out. We are touched by the work of so many people here and that trip that we took to the heart of America and the flood of activism inundated the White House with calls, petitions, emails, and letters. And I know a lot of you picked up the phone, picked up a pen, and did a lot more than that.
A lot of you people are here. People like Jerry Flood from the Catholic Bishops Conference — amazing people like that. People like Paul Davis from HealthGAP — they’re extraordinary, by the way, the paratroopers.
Well, we spoke as one. We are not the same. So within months, the United States stepped forward with an historic AIDS initiative and that’s no coincidence. When people like us actually can get together, raise our voice as one, WE CHANGE THE WORLD. And, you know, it’s a fact because the moment when people speak as one, like when we — you — people spoke as one to crush Jim Crow, you spoke as one for civil rights, you spoke as one to end apartheid. You are still raising your voices for access to treatment in America, and people here in Philly are leading that fight.
The [unintelligible] out there say that change does not come unless people demand it, and today we are demanding it. We will join our voices once again to speak, march, and act up. Together as one, we’re going to take the next step in the journey of equality. What a pain in the arse equality turned out to be. It just won’t let us sit still, will it? It won’t let our leaders sit still either. And I’m proud to be a pain in their arse. You think the FCC are listening? “Arse” is an Irish word.
Anyway, equality is demanding of us. It disturbs the status quo. It was once preposterous to think of a woman running a corporation or a black man running a president. It’s preposterous to think that you’re running a corporation, by the way. Well, one day it will be preposterous to think that we could let so many perish for no good reason.
History has a way of making ridiculous ideas that were once acceptable, like apartheid. It’s an important moment and we’re on the right side of history here, I do believe. And we’re six months away from a presidential election, which could be decided by this state, the power of one state.
We’re two weeks away from a historic meeting of world leaders in Georgia. At this very moment — at this very moment — Congress is debating how fully to fund the programs that will give life and hope to the people in Africa. At this very moment, literally, the administration is deciding which AIDS drugs to buy with your tax dollars. Either cheap, generic versions to help as many people as possible or the more expensive, branded drugs which will not go as far. The future is being decided today. It’s an important decision.
So, we’re launching the ONE campaign to unite America in the fight against AIDS and extreme poverty. We know that if we work together, we can win the fight and together we must because African people — guess what? — are equals in the eyes of God. They are our brothers and sisters, our lives are interconnected and interdependent. And this is not just some warm, fuzz feeling kind of way — they actually are equal in the eyes of God and let’s start treating people, therefore, equally.
I must say how it really, really annoys me, it just really annoys me, when we put our brothers and sisters in Africa, like Agnes here or Dikembe, you know, like they’re standing there helpless, you know, and that they’re dependent on the crumbs from our table. Well, you know what? These are not just charity. These are not charity issues. This is a justice issue.
Not letting these people trade with us, that’s a justice issue. When we can flood their markets with cheap products but they can’t put their products on our shelves — that’s a justice issue, not a charity issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents from years and years ago during the Cold War, when we gave a lot of crooks money because at least they weren’t communists, that is not a charity issue, that’s a justice issue. And guess what? God, our father in heaven, is pissed off. One person, one petition, one phone call to Congress, one letter to a president, one email to friends — it starts with one person, one action, and it starts growing, building momentum, multiplying its power one by one.
You know how many people are here today? Well, I counted it. I’m a rock star who can count. Three million people are here because that’s what these people represent in their various organizations all over America and all over the, sort of, map. Three million people. I’ve never spoken to three million people before. This is the first time for me. How am I doing? You wouldn’t want to be a rock star if you weren’t insecure, I’m just going to be honest with you. It’s a lot of volume. It’s a lot of volume, and I’m excited about an idea today. I’m excited about the idea that we can be the generation that rids the world of extreme poverty. We, literally, can be that generation. That’s extraordinary. Yep.
We just have to work together and that’s not easy. I’m in a band, I’m married, I mean working together, it’s tricky. But you know the statistics and I think it’s important to just remind ourselves of why we’re here. 6,300 Africans dying everyday from AIDS. 9,500 Africans getting infections everyday from AIDS. This is not a cause. We all have our causes. This is an emergency. Let’s treat it as such. I hate that “cause” thing. “Hey Bono, we love you. We love your ’cause,’ man, we love that ’cause’…” You know, I have causes. You know we’ve all got our pet causes. For some, their pet is their cause. There are things I care about in my community back in Dublin, Ireland. There are lots of things you care about. This is not a cause. 7,000 people, 7,000 African people dying everyday for want of drugs you can get ’round the corner here. This is not a cause; this is an emergency and we’re gonna sort it out.
So what are we asking? What are we asking Congress? Well, over the next few years, Congress, we want to ask the Congress to dedicate an extra one percent of the national, the federal budget to give to the poorest, the most neglected on this earth. That’s right, one percent. I must say that that’s not a lot of money. But one percent to transform the lives of hundreds and thousands, indeed, millions of people, I don’t think is too high a price, and that’s the ask here today. And, you know, if the United States does its fair share, there’s knock on effect because others will follow. One percent more of the U.S. budget will leverage tens of billions of dollars more from other wealthy countries. Other wealthy countries like Ireland. [audience laughs] Why did you laugh when I said Ireland? Don’t pick a fight with the Irish. We may not invade you with tanks, but our poets are coming.
I accept that this stuff is complicated. It’s not simple. We have to look at the conditions, the extreme poverty in which this AIDS emergency thrives. Your tax dollars will go further if we strengthen self-sufficiency, do deeper debt cancellation, fairer trade terms, tougher rules to fight corruption. This is important. This stuff prevents Africans from earning their own way out of poverty. We’ve got to get these obstacles out of Africa’s way so they can fight back themselves. So it’s not about charity, as I say, it’s about justice.
And I would also like to argue that in these tense, dangerous times, that this is not just heart money, it’s smart money, okay? Think about it. I’ve said it to politicians, I’ve said it to presidents, “Paint the drugs red, white and blue.” They’re great advertisements for the United States, for what the U.S. can do, for your ingenuity. Great, great opportunity for America to re-describe itself at this moment, when your flag is being run through the dirt all over the Southern Hemisphere. Let’s actually show this is an extraordinary country, America. I’m a fan, but I’m an annoying fan. I’m going to remind you why I like this country.
This is the kind of reason I like this country. When I see people acting, moving as one on an issue that doesn’t even affect them, for people they have never met but love. That’s why I love America. About sixty years ago, there was another continent in grave danger. It was my continent, Europe. Europe is strong today, thanks in part to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after the war. Well, that’s the kind of plan we need for Africa today. The Marshall Plan was great for Europe, but it was also great for America. “Brand USA” never shone brighter than after the second world war when, after having liberated Europe, you helped rebuild it. This was smart money as well as heart money. The Marshall Plan. We need the same audacity, the same imagination, and the same commitment of a modern Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan built a bulwark against Sovietism in the Cold War. Well, today, for half the cost, we can build a bulwark against all kinds of extremism in our age during the Hot War.
These are nervous times, dangerous times, as I say. Isn’t it cheaper, isn’t it smarter, to defend ourselves with drugs and these kind of imaginative programs, to make friends rather than have to pay forces defending yourself against enemies later on? Isn’t this just the smart thing to do? I think it’s a pretty good bargain, and I think people in DC understand it. The Millennium Challenge and the AIDS initiative, they’ve gotten support on both sides of the aisle. It’s a great start.
Right now is a pivotal moment. It’s an election year in America. We’re not trying to get any particular person elected; we’re trying to get our issues elected. Will the Congress fully fund these vital programs? Will President Bush and Senator Kerry offer sufficiently ambitious plans to beat AIDS and extreme poverty? Will American voters demand that they do? History hangs on their answer — on our answer.
And this, of course, is where American history got started: Philadelphia. That’s why we’re here, right here. This is where the Declaration of Independence was read out loud. This is where the liberty bell rang out. And I don’t know about you — I was born across the Atlantic almost a couple hundred years later — but my ears are still ringing from the sound of the liberty bell.
You read the Declaration, and you realize America’s not just a country, it’s an idea. Ring the liberty bell. The idea of America — that anything is possible. “Hey, is that the moon up there? Wow! Let’s get up there, take a walk, bring a piece back, you know.” That’s the America I’m a fan of. America is an idea, not just a country, it’s an idea. I come from Ireland. It’s a very, very nice country. I recommend you all take a visit, but guess what? It’s not an idea. America is an idea. It’s about the idea that anything is possible, but it’s also about the idea that with great power comes great responsibility. It’s about the idea that equality is the highest calling, but the hardest to reach. It’s about the idea that one person can change the course of history. These ideas are alive in America. I’ve heard them in truckstops, high schools, churches. There lies the liberty bell. I want to ring the liberty bell again. We’re taking another step in the journey of equality for a better, safer world. For our brothers and sisters whom we don’t know but to love. To the rhythm of African drummers playing here in Philadelphia sunshine. We’re gonna ring it for the generation that says NO to unfair trade laws. Ring the liberty bell for a generation that says YES, take our lifesaving drugs at a discount. We’re gonna ring if the generation that says NO to people starving in a time of plenty. We’re gonna ring it for the generation that says YES, Africans are equal to us. We’re gonna ring it or the generation that says, “Where you live in the world does not depend on whether you will live.” We’re gonna ring it for the generation that says, “Because we can, we must. We will.” Ring the liberty bell, Philadelphia, once more. Thank you. [audience applause]
Let’s give Senator Specter a call, shall we? I mean, he’s the guy. Talk about the power of one. Here’s a man with a vote in the United States Congress that, literally, can decide whether people like Agnes in Africa right now are gonna live or die. And I know he’s interested in these issues but lest he think this is a fringe event, let’s just give him a call, shall we? Let’s send some smoke signals, Philadelphia. [pause] It’s an answering machine. This has happened to me before. [audience laughs]
Senator Specter, this is Bono and a few friends. [audience roars] More than a few friends. Senator, we know you take very seriously the American tax dollars and that you control very carefully the budgetary process in Washington. And we would like to say that it is very, very, very, very important to us the lives of hundreds and thousands and, indeed, millions of Africans who depend on your support in Congress this week, and we would like to say–” Ah, it’s a short…I can call him back, but I think he got the message. Thank you and God bless you.
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