"As a performer, I understand it takes a picture of me with the Pope or a president to get debt cancellation onto the front pages. Otherwise it's just too obscure a melody line."
We're One, We Get to Campaign With Each Other
Bono launches The One Campaign in Philadelphia
May 17, 2004
It was a beautiful day in Philadelphia as DATA kicked off its "One Campaign" on Independence Mall on Sunday.
A crowd of about 4,000 gathered for a rally that featured music, dance, prayer and speeches by a diverse group of activists, including NBA star Dikembe Mutombo of the New York Knicks, Grammy-winning Christian musician Michael W. Smith, and DATA co-founder and U2 lead singer, Bono. Similar events were held in cities across the U.S., including Nashville, Louisville, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Tucson, Arizona.
Bono addressed the crowd wearing a black, long-sleeved shirt and brown cargo pants. He praised the previous speaker, Agnes Nyamayarwo, a Ugandan nurse who is HIV positive, and has lost her husband and youngest child to the disease. "She's an amazing woman," Bono said, "and I don't know how she can keep telling her story over again. But I feel sorry for any politician that has to sit right in front of her."
He joked with the crowd, saying he was "proud to be a pain in the arse...and if the FCC is listening, 'arse' is an Irish word." He spoke about the Marshall Plan and how great it was for Europe and America, and how the same type of initiative to provide AIDS drugs would be a "great advertisement" for America in the world. "Make them red, white and blue. Your flag has recently been dragged through the dirt. What cheaper, or smarter way to defend yourselves than to defend with drugs?"
He urged the crowd to "ring the Liberty Bell of equality," and was adamant that this was not just a cause, but a "justice issue."
"We're standing at the birthplace of justice," Bono said. "Who would have ever believed that a woman could run a business or a black man would run the president?"
Bono ended his speech with a moment straight out of Zoo TV. He placed a call to Pennsylvania State Senator Arlen Specter, but only got through to the Senator's answering machine. "Hello, Senator Specter? This is Bono, and I'm here with a few thousand friends and we need to talk to you."
Almost every speaker mentioned the upcoming presidential elections in November (Pennsylvania is considered a swing state) and urged people to "vote their conscience." Bono said, "Don't vote for a particular person, but elect their initiatives." Mutumbo said he hoped that the government would not only increase funding, but also work more closely with private organizations such as DATA and his own foundation to provide relief.
The One Campaign is pushing the U.S. for an extra one percent in funding, hoping that this will leverage more money from other developed countries.
Reverend David Beckman, president of the organization Bread for the World, urged people to "write one letter, send one e-mail to your representatives in Congress."
The One Campaign stresses the importance of what one person can do to make a difference in the world. College student and soon-to-be University of Pennsylvania grad Neil Halloran was asked to read DATA's petition for the rally because the organizers thought he was the perfect example of this idea. As an undergrad student, Neil made a documentary called Five Heroes of Aids in Africa, made with funds he raised himself. He said, "I originally thought I was going to Africa to shoot a dark and depressing film about the AIDS epidemic, but when I got there, I was inspired by the work that these great people were doing, so I changed the message."
Representatives from other world relief organizations were present at the rally, including the African Well Fund and Netaid.org. [@U2 has additional coverage of the One Campaign launch.]
© @U2/Maione, 2004.