Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bono for World Bank President? Don't Laugh...

The L.A. Times got a lot of press recently when it ran an editorial suggesting Bono, the frontman for the last of the great rock'n'roll bands, as the new head of the World Bank. This is the kind of idea that's so nuts it's brilliant. Bono would certainly make a better candidate than deposed HP chief Carly Fiorina, another high-profile potential candidate. What would make me, a died-in-the-wool conservative, an advocate of a do-gooder rock star sticking his nose into politics?

Well, for one thing, his nose is already there, and unlike such limousine liberals as Babs Streisand, Bono does his homework. Since 1985, when U2 blew away the world with its iconic performance at Live Aid, Bono has been a tireless advocate of the poor, particularly in Africa. Currently, he is a major force behind DATA, an organization devoted to debt relief and the fight against AIDS, which is rolling across the African continent in an unbelievably devestating wave.

Bono doesn't survey the scene from a distance, then write a big check. He has been there, on the ground, to see with his own eyes the despair among many of the world's poorest. He has been willing to work across the aisle, working with such unlikely allies as Jesse Helms and John Snow, who added fuel to the story this weekend by refusing to rule out Bono as a candidate for the short list for World Bank chief.

The best reason, however, to choose Bono would be his willingness to use his celebrity for the benefit of others. I have had the good fortune to be present for four U2 concerts, and they are the stuff of legend: inspiring, passionate, uplifting affairs that leave the audience feeling alive and motivated. At each of these concerts, Bono has made a point of thanking the fans for making him wealthy and comfortable beyond his wildest dreams, and giving him the life he has. He makes it clear he realizes his strange good fortune, and the slightly ridiculous position it puts him in, but even more, what a moral crime it would be to not use these blessings in the service of others.

Unfortunately, it ain't gonna happen. As this Slate piece points out, the job is traditionally given to an American, and despite Bono's love affair with the States (see Rattle and Hum), he loves his native Ireland too much to become a U.S. citizen. Besides, he's kind of busy with his other gig, you know, the one that pays the bills. U2's instant-sellout Vertigo tour is booked through the end of the year, and there's tens of millions of dollars of other people's money that would fly out the window should he cancel.

A nice dream, yes, and I love dreamers, but this one will remain just that...

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