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U2 Interviews

Bono at J2K press conference in DC
© Josh Kline 24.09.1999

Bono at Jubilee 2000 in Washington 9/24/1999 Opening Statement:

Bono: It's a room full of money, always is. I am a singer, I don't know about  how much influence I have but, as a musician I have a certain constituency  not they we command but they certainly hear us. And it's a constituency that  over the years, has risen up in the 60's: the civil rights movement, we   fueled that; in the 70's: trying to stop the Vietnam war; in the 80's various   different ways we went ahead of the politicians. And I was caught up in that,   and I was really excited, we raised 200 million dollars and we thought this   was great we were jumping for joy we thought we cracked it, and now we   discover that Africa pays 200 million dollars a week in servicing the debt.   So it feels... it's just not a great place to be, but anyway it's a constituency that's a little behind right now on this issue in the United States. I think the war in Kosovo made things very difficult, it's hard to get everyone's attention on it, but we're going to do something about it and... we say the Pope, Pope John and Pope John ran off with my sunglasses yesterday in Rome and I told him that he was a great showman, I told him "you are a great showman as well as a hoyman, and he took the shades and put them on unfortunately you won't see the photographs. I think some of the people behind the scenes in the Vatican didn't have the same sense of humor as the Pontiff. So all the news broadcasts you just see him going like this, and fffffppt gone ( makes a motion as if putting on glasses and then shoots his arm down rapidly) And He's a great performer, I think all politicians as well as the Pontiff perform. A sense of occasion is everything for performers, and the sense of time and the bigger the occasion the more the performer has to rise to it. But for all the fanfare and fireworks planned for new years eve 1999 and the millennium celebrations there's only one idea any of us has heard that might give us a real reason to celebrate, throw a party and that is the idea that Jubilee 2000 campaign has been settled around the world to cancel all the debts of the poorest of the poorest countries of the world. It's the only idea big enough to fill the shoes of the date. You need, as difficult as it is it's an Everest you know complex, but we don't mind describe it then climb they got to see both sides of an issue here on capital hill we'll do our best. It's an economic argument, it's a moral argument, and it's a spiritual argument. The idea of Jubilee goes back to the Judeo- Christian thinking and I think it's part of American thinking as well. In the scriptures, I think it's Leviticus Chapter 9, it talks about Sabbath Economics, basically every seven days you rest a day, every seven years you let the land grow back; and seven times seven the fiftieth year the debts are canceled and the debtors are set free. This idea interestingly enough is inscribed on the Liberty Bell, just right up the road in Philadelphia. So I think we got the support of the churches people from all persuasions: the Dali Lama, Billy Graham sent in a incredible message, and it's a Jewish idea as I said, Muslims, Muslims want it, economists want it, a few pop stars thrown in. I mean it's hard to know why it can't come off. It just feels like an idea whose time has come. I've spoken to the president and he appeared to want it, I still believe he wants it. I spoke to Sandy Berger, advisor to the president and he was incredible: "is it possible." I know it's absurd a pop star explaining this to a politician but it's an advantage sometimes. Being an exotic creature, people let you in sometimes, I'm sure later they regret it. And he was saying: "how much is this going to cost. And I was talking to Jeff, and Jeff was crunching the numbers and it turns (out) it's not really going to cost that much. So that was good. You know the secretary of treasury is a really smart guy, and I have a feeling that he could make this come of if he had some support from his own peers. I met with Bob Rubin he's a very smart guy he left his job in the stock market a year before it crashed. So he's got to be cool, he's the Elvis of money I thought. So Bob's around he's there and you know he's interested. But you know he's a money guy. Bankers you know hate the idea of canceling debt it's against their religion. But even though a basic axiom of their religion is you don't cancel debt, another one is you have to face reality. Peter Peterson council of foreign relations: he's the chairman, he say's you know if your horse falls down and dies we suggest you dismount. You know we do have to face reality. And the reality is there is a continent twenty times the size of Europe in a slide with the most offensive statistics known to mankind. Which people really hurt. So we have to face reality. I don't know what the reality is now. But this initiative is a good start. People see it as the first stage of the rock but it's not the..
you know you don't as far as half way up (unrecognizable) And I think this is a really extraordinary idea an idea that you are only going to have once in a lifetime cause the millennium is the hook cause the bankers, I told you; you don't really know, cause it's against their religion. You know the fear of credit worthiness is an ongoing strategy. That's why the millennium is so important and we hope to hang this on. That's the get-out if you like to get in is the humanitarian crisis not just (unrecognizable) So this idea is going to be a thousand years old on January 1st. It's really the pressing reason that we are here today. We have to get a message to them, I actually don't know what that is. I think it was problems in Mexico I think Mexico had some problems things going haywire over there some closing (unrecognizable) I got a book of poetry to give to John Paul on the Irish Nobel poet, Shamus he inscribed, it was from a catechism from when he was a kid: it said, question: who is my neighbor, answer: all of mankind. This is not just spiritually true; it is also physically true; in the global economy, forget all the holy smoke stuff. Actually we depend on each other and in America and Europe's interests and this a way too jump start, it is not a cure all. The way I feel about this is this if we don't get this all these millennium celebrations it is just going to be like Luis the 14th in the west, off the drawbridge were all in the castle and were pissing over a mote of champagne on the poorest of the poor and I don't want to be a part of it I want to be a part of something else. I want to be a part of a historic attempt at restructuring relationship between the so called developed world and the so called undeveloped one.

Question: What do you think as a rock star you can bring to this issue?

Bono: Look when rock stars open their mouths on issues, I hang on to the table, and I am one. So I understand the cynicism that might be out there. However as I said earlier although we don't command a constituency we are heard by one. We need to excite support in the popular media, as well as behind the scenes. In the United States I happen to have done more work behind the scenes then I have with the press; just because of the war in Kosovo its very hard to get this up and running as a news story. The campaign two weeks ago we got off to a late start; I think it is fair to say in the US; just trying to get popular support. So I guess that's my job, just banging drums and blowing trumpets and making noise, that's what I do for a living.

Question: How do you think yesterdays meeting with the Pope went?

Bono: As I told everyone earlier, the pontiff ran off with my fly shades. I told him was a great showman and holy man. He seemed in great spirits for a man who is so infirmed and so frail. It was a great moment for me as an Irishman actually to be in the Vatican brought up all kinds of questions for me. I was so struck by his determination to be there more than anyone. He is very passionate about this subject of debt relief. I think it is the most important idea on his mind right now. And it is the single biggest moral question of the day and as we go into the celebrations for the millennium it might be the single biggest idea that will make some sense for all the nonsense planned. While I'm not opposed to the fireworks and champagne; it would be great to have a real reason to party. As complex as it is to get across the message: I don't think anything is simpler. (unrecognizable) And I am surprised sometimes at the cynicism of the media. It reminds me of the arguments over apartheid and the various boycotts I remember hearing (unrecognizable) It was just enough to stop the real push from getting through. (Unrecognizable) And we at Jubilee 2000 have got as broad a coalition. We got the catholic church, we got Billy Graham, the evangelicals are aboard, the Jews are on board it's a Jewish idea, Muslims want this, pop stars want this. I really don't know who doesn't (want this) but they are obviously out there. And they probably are not going to listen to anything else other than a popular outcry. That's why we are here.

Question: How do you reconcile the Pontiff's stand on debt relief, but at the same time he won't approve of these people have birth control?

Bono: It's definitely part of the problem and it is were myself and the Vatican part company. But I also do believe that the pontiff holds these views sincerely, and on the issue of contraceptive he is a very sincere man, and I was struck by that. But he has a passion for this idea, the issue of debt relief. This is a man who surreptitiously was involved in the drawing (unrecognizable) He wants to take on this higher wall, that grows higher everyday. The gap, the obscene gap between the haves and the have not's. The widening gap. I think this is (unrecognizable) This is his passion. (Debt Relief)

Question: Did the Pope give you the rosary beads (referring to the rosary he is wearing)

Bono: Yes he gave them to me.

Question: To what do you attribute the lack of media coverage: Cynicism, Greed, or Ignorance?

Bono: A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I just think these kinds of things are seen to be a raging liberal issue. And they are thinking: "oh the Pope's not known to be a liberal is he?" When you think it through it's not really a liberal issue. I mean people like Orrin Hatch, whose a conservative republican has offered me help. Billy Graham. It is not a liberal issue. It is difficult in the pop media to get this idea across, but in the print media it is not difficult at all. I think, I hope we will get some more positive coverage.

Question: Did the Pope really put on your glasses?

Bono: Honestly, he put on the goggles.

Questions: And their was no pictures?

Bono: He just looked at me and gave big smile, everyone photographed the whole thing. The Vatican cut the film. Obviously the people behind the scenes don't have the same sense of humor as the pontiff. He had a cool pair of shoes on. I guess he doesn't get a great variety of garments but the shoes were very cool. They were red shoes. It's like the song by Elvis Costello: "The Angel with Red Slippers.."

(Bono mixes with some of us and sign autographs)

Bono: Is my bag still over their; my stuff gone? (laughing)

Me: Yeah your stuff is their.

Me: Bono, you have inspired me greatly, seriously. Thank you very much.

Question: Are you a solo act today or do you representing Larry, Adam, the Edge as well?

Bono: Yes I am but I'm trying their patients I think it is fair to say, they would like me back at work. That's my day job.

Question: Is it possible they (U2 members) will show up at Net Aid, because there are rumors on the web?

Bono: No they can't. Edge is due a baby that week. I got to run. God bless.

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