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"We chose the name U2 to be ambiguous, to stay away from categorization." — Bono

Bono Vox Pops in to Harvard

U2 frontman Bono took time out from the band's sold-out four night tour stop in Boston to address Harvard University's graduating class of 2001 and former vice-president Al Gore late yesterday afternoon (June 6).

After a delay in his arrival, Bono arrived wearing a dark green suit, camouflage cap, and purple wrap sunglasses. The star spoke at length to the crowd of 15,000 about the struggles and oppression of "the third of the world that lives on less than a dollar a day."

The 20-minute speech saw a jocular, passionate, occasionally rambling, and at times humble and serious Bono detail the issues of Third World debt and his own involvement in the cause.

"I should explain who I am and what on earth am I doing here. My name is Bono, and I am a rock star. I say that not as a boast, but more as a confession," Bono began, describing himself as a singer, songwriter, and father, "friend to dogs, sworn enemy of the saccharine and a believer in grace over karma."

Bono detailed his ties to Boston and Harvard, saying, "U2 made it big in Boston. Not New York. Not L.A.," and thanked Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs, with whom he had previously spent time studying debt-related issues, quipping, "Let me tell you how I enrolled at Harvard and slept with an economics professor."

Bono also thanked incoming university president and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers, describing Summers' role in the U.S. Congress' allotment of $435 million towards Third World debt relief and affectionately referring to him as "a nutcase and a freak."

Interspersed with anecdotes about the Pope and allusions to the Partridge Family and psychedelic drugs, Bono quoted several grisly statistics, stating that in Africa there are "25 million HIV positive people that will leave behind 40 million AIDS orphans by 2010 in sub-Saharan Africa alone," and stressing, "for every dollar of government aid we send to developing nations, nine dollars comes back to us in debt service payment."

Bono also commented on the state of our world without Idealism, under siege by materialism, narcissism, and "all the other 'isms' of indifference." Touching on his own excesses and indifference, he said: "I've seen success as the drug of choice. I've seen great minds and prolific imaginations disappear up their own ass, strung out on their own self-importance. I am one of them."

In conclusion, Bono insisted he was not "running for role model," but explaining "It's hard to make this a popular cause. It's hard to make it 'pop,' you know? And I guess that's what my job is."

After his speech, the class of 2001 presented Bono with an honorary degree, saying: "You too, are now a member of our class." U2 continue their North American Elevation tour with two more shows in Boston, before moving on to Philadelphia.

© NME, 2001. All rights reserved.