Recently, when my son was in town I went to the George Bush Presidential Library. Right there amongst the documents from diplomats and gifts from visiting dignitaries was a letter from Bono to President Bush.
For those of you that don’t know, Bono is the lead singer in a little band called U2, otherwise known—in my husband’s opinion—as the greatest band on earth.
I had to know more…so I started reading up on how this relationship began. I’m going to explain it with a timeline.
UNICEF puts out a report that states 5.4 million people were newly infected in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. Over 2.8 million people died the previous year.
Billy Graham begins to mobilize evangelicals in the US to address the HIV/AIDS problem.
Republicans were skeptical about foreign aid to Africa and felt like Africa should handle their own problems.
Colin Power, the Secretary of State, had other concerns. He believed that the AIDS epidemic would wipe out an entire child-bearing population, leaving behind instability and a climate ripe for terrorism. He didn’t consider this a health crisis…but a National Security crisis.
Bono’s popularity increases and he’s on the cover of Time magazine.
The US is getting criticized by other nations for contributing so little to the epidemic. President Bush wants to increase foreign aid by 50% over a three year period.
President Bush has a secret meeting with Dr Jean Pape, a physician who cared for AIDS patients in Haiti. The doctor told the President that “our arms are totally broken” and “there are things we could do if we had the drugs.”
He must have made an impact on the President because…
In his State of the Union address, President Bush says “…tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief…I ask Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years.”
Meanwhile, America is split on the war in Iraq and the President Bush has his hands full trying to revamp Social Security.
Later that year, Bono confronts President Bush about the gap of promised funds versus actual money sent to Africa. Only two million dollars were actually approved to aid the crisis.
Bono tells reporters that he is depressed about the situation.
U2 enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Live 8 is a string of benefit concerts that precede the G8 conference. More than a 1,000 musicians perform to “make poverty history”.
U2 plays London and the world hears more about the crisis.
Bono meets with President Bush. Beforehand, he tells the news media that he is not afraid of meeting world leaders because “they will be accountable for what happened on their watch. I’m representing the poorest and the most vulnerable people. On a spiritual level, I have that with me. I’m throwing a punch, and the fist belongs to the people who can’t be in the room, whose rage, whose anger, whose hurt I represent.”
Bono contacts Karl Rove, the senior advisor to the President to try to get Bush to agree to be on a cover in Vanity Fair.
Bono gets some people together for a special edition of a Vanity Fair edition. Annie Leibovitz is the photographer for a host of famous people including: George Clooney, Oprah, Obama, Brad Pitt and...George Bush. The common thread? People who are passionate about what’s happening in Africa.
Bono writes the “Pres” a note…
And the President of the United States writes back…
People living with HIV/AIDS : 33.4 million
2.1 million of those are children under the age of 15.
President Bush is regarded as “uncool” and “deeply unpopular” but Bono makes it clear in an interview that he believes the man can get results.
And he does.
The United States becomes the largest contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, providing $200 million in seed money. The US challenges other international donors to increase their donations.
The private sector gets involved with advocacy, philanthropic contributions and private partnerships.
Bono is named Person of the Year along with Bill and Melinda Gates.
The tide is turning in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. A report states that deaths have decreased by 20%, new infections were down 21% and 6.6 million people were placed on antiretroviral therapies.
It also said that, “Few, if any, global health or developmental assistance programs in US history have been able to initiate such a wide range of activities in so many resource-constrained settings in such a short period of time.”
Bono writes another note…
This one was a bit hard to read so let me help…
Hard to take in what you have accomplished in at least 8.3 million lives.
What a gift to the world.
Bono hangs out with G.Man on his ranch. (see picture) President Bush writes on Instagram, “Bono is the real deal. He has a huge heart and a selfless soul, not to mention a decent voice.”
Bono is awarded the inaugural George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership for his work combatting the HIV/AIDS crisis and poverty in Africa.
Here’s a Rolling Stone video for you.
So that’s the story I could piece together about G. Man and Bono.
But one more thing.
In an interview, Bono was asked how he got the attention of so many world leaders. He answered it wasn’t anything to do with him being an Irish musician it was because “They are afraid of our audience.”
It wasn’t just the celebrities that made this happen.
It was all of us.