Clad in his classic cowboy hat and tinted sunglasses, rock star Bono fielded questions from students and discussed a possible future collaboration with Harvard at an event held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government with University President Lawrence H. Summers yesterday.
With his charisma and Irish humor, Bono urged students to become involved in global development and in the fight against AIDS. Bono founded an organization Debt, Aids, Trade in Africa in 2002 to raise awareness and instigate change in these particular areas.
Summers kicked off the question and answer session asking Bono what the singer thought the key message “for the world’s political leaders” should be.
“The war on terror cannot be won without the war against poverty,” Bono answered.
Bono then addressed his interactions with politicians and the problems he has had reaching some people.
“I had some difficulty meeting with Berlusconi,” Bono said. “They don’t like me,” he added in an Italian accent.
Bono also emphasized the importance of the G8 summit, applauding the progress and the $50 billion increase of development.
Talking about the percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) given to aid, Bono said that the United States only gives around .17 percent, falling far short of his aim of .7 percent from all developed countries.
“No Americans know this,” Bono said. “In a recent poll, Americans said between 10 and 20 percent of the GDP has been spent.”
To fight AIDS and poverty, Harvard should play a key role in helping the grassroots efforts, Bono said.
“What Harvard and campuses can do is ferment the movement,” Bono said. “And that’s what’s going to change the game.”
In addition to student involvement, Bono said he and Summers had discussed the possibility of a future collaboration with Harvard. Bono said he could not specify the details of such a collaboration.
“I would love to work with Harvard,” Bono said. “There may be a way of doing something together which would be a plumb line of success in these areas both on the ground and on the donor side.”
Bono first came into contact with Summers during his time as Secretary of the Department of Treasury.
“Who is Bono?” Summers said of his initial reaction to meeting the singer. “Is that his first name or his last name?”
“He also thought the band’s name, U2, was a reference to the Cuban missile crisis,” Bono quipped. Since then, the two have cooperated closely. Bono gave Summers a shout out during U2’s concert Monday night and accepted Summers’ personal invitation last June to come to Harvard this fall.
Originally, Bono’s visit yesterday was supposed to include a meeting with faculty members specializing in the issues of AIDS in Africa and an address to students at the Gordon Track and Tennis Center. Unfortunately, Bono doesn’t make big speeches while his band is on tour, according to IOP Executive Director Catherine McLaughlin.
As a result, around 80 students representing various student organizations, including the IOP, the Harvard African Student Association and the Aids Coalition, were allowed to attend the closed event.
“The way we identified the student groups was based on their involvement in international development and global health issues,” McLaughlin said.
The students selected to attend were not disappointed.
“I thought it was absolutely fantastic for someone to be in his position and still care so much about the people and poverty in Africa,” said Jennifer Y. Lan ’07, a member of the IOP. “ I definitely wish he had more time but he’s Bono. He’s probably off to meet the pope right now or something.”
The event, which lasted just under forty minutes, was hosted by the Office of the President, the Institute of Politics (IOP) and the Harvard Institute of Global Health.