As I posted yesterday, I spent last evening with 1,999 other people listening to Bono talk about the crisis of poverty and AIDS in Africa and challenge us to get inspired, get involved, and get engaged in helping the poorest people in the world. Alticor, Quixtar’s parent company, was one of the patrons of the event sponsored by the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.
Yes, Bono wore his trademark sunglasses, along with a blazer, t-shirt and blue jeans – making him stand out among the sea of suits and tuxes at the black tie optional event. He’d just gotten a haircut, which he said put him in “fighting form” for the evening.
But what he said, and the challenge he made to those in the audience, is much bigger than style or fame.
There’s been lots of speculation about why Bono would agree to come to Grand Rapids. Some have suggested that he’s here because Grand Rapids is one of the top 10 giving communities in the U.S., with those who give providing an average of 10 percent of their incomes to various causes.
But Bono was there to inform, enlighten, and enlist help. He talked about the crisis in Africa, with 6,500 Africans dying of AIDs every day. There are currently 12 million African AIDs orphans, a number that will grow to 18 million by the end of the decade. Bono drew parallels to the December 26 tsunami, in that the deaths from that natural disaster are the same that Africa sees in a typical month.
Bono talked about living in Ethiopia with his family for about six months in the 1980s following the LIVE Aid concerts. He said as he was leaving, an African man asked that Bono take his infant son with him, knowing that in Ireland, the child would live, and in Africa, the child was likely to die. And how unfair it was that a matter of whether you lived or died rested on where you called home.
He was there to promote his “One” movement but did so in a relatively subtle way. He talked about not being big on dreaming without doing, or on idealism without action. Bono didn’t ask for money, but for people to get involved and try to make a difference.
What it was really about is sharing our success with others, and our responsibility to give back – whether in our own communities or villages and towns a world away.
I’m very proud that Alticor and its founding families set a great example, from local philanthropy to Alticor’s One by One campaign that has made an amazing difference in the lives of children worldwide. To learn more, visit www.alticor.com to get a global perspective and www.quixtar.com to see what we’re doing here in North America.
A footnote….My post yesterday about Bono probably never being West of the Palace in Michigan was incorrect, as my husband was the first to point out. In 1981 a very young and green U2 played for an audience of about a hundred at Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church. I was wrong, and am correcting the record.