In New York With 'Pope of Software'

4 Feb 2002
Bono took part in a debate on foreign aid at New York's World Economic Forum this weekend.

Advocating the importance of debt relief to fight Aids and poverty in developing countries, Bono's audience was business leaders and politicians, and he shared centre stage with Microsoft founder Bill Gates - 'the Pope of Software'.

According to the Associated Press reporter, Bono turned out to be the stand-out contributor.

'Every year at the World Economic Forum there's a leader or two who stands out, courted by the rich and famous - and the media. In years past, Madeline Albright, Yasser Arafat Bill Clinton and George Soros have been the stars.

This year it's Bono, the lead singer of U2, who has made a cause out of Third World debt forgiveness.

The rocker seems to be everywhere at the forum, which has otherwise brought a decidedly straight-laced crowd of business leaders and politicians to New York.

`He's a good friend of mine,'' said U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, lounging on a couch at the Inter-Continental Hotel where forum participants hold press conferences. ``He can meet with the pope one day and with Jesse Helms on another.''

Wearing blue wraparound sunglasses Thursday inside the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where the participants hold their sessions, he traded opinions with three Nobel Peace Prize winners: Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Kofi Annan (news - web sites). Then Bono played a private concert for conference-goers.

On Saturday, he faced off with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on the forum's main stage in a debate on foreign aid, then joined Microsoft chairman Bill Gates for a news conference on AIDS prevention in Africa.

`The great thing about hanging out with Republicans, it is very, very, very unhip for both of us. There's kind of a parity of pain there,' Bono joked.

It's strange company for a singer who once railed against American imperialism in `Bullet the Blue Sky' and whose albums regularly lambaste Western consumerism and big business.

The 41-year-old Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson, has become the main spokesman for Drop the Debt, which campaigns for the canceling of Third World debt. He has also joined anti-AIDS efforts and lobbying to lower trade barriers that have frustrated poor countries.

He said he began meeting publicly with world leaders and attending conferences of policy-makers after discovering the mass media didn't want to hear him talk about those subjects.

`I went to politicians because I couldn't get on TV,' Bono said.

More at

For more on Bono and Bill see our next story on the same subject.


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