Saturday, August 28, 2010

U2~The Lincoln Memorial Event~Bono

2001 Harvard Commencement Address

"I am rebelling against the idea that the world is the way the world is, and there's not a damned thing I can do about it."

Date of Speech: June 6, 2001

"Thank you for that introduction. But I suppose I should say a few more words about who I am and what on earth I'm doing up here.

My name is Bono.

My name is Bono, and I'm a rock star.

Now, I tell you this, not as a boast but as a kind of confession. Because in my view the only thing worse than a rock star is a rock star with a conscience -- a celebrity with a cause ... OH, DEAR!

Worse yet, is a singer with a conscience -- a placard-waving, knee-jerking, fellow-travelling activist with a Lexus, and a swimming pool shaped like his own head.

I'm a singer. You know what a singer is? Someone with a hole in his heart as big as his ego. When you need 20,000 people screaming your name in order to feel good about your day, you know you're a singer.

I am a singer and a songwriter but I am also a father, four times over. I am a friend to dogs. I am a sworn enemy of the saccharine; and a believer in grace over karma. I talk too much when I'm drunk and sometimes even when I'm not.

I am not drunk right now. These are not sunglasses, these are protection.

But I must tell you. I owe more than my spoiled lifestyle to rock music. I owe my worldview. Music was like an alarm clock for me as a teenager and still keeps me from falling asleep in the comfort of my freedom.

Rock music to me is rebel music. But rebelling against what? In the Fifties it was sexual mores and double standards. In the Sixties it was the Vietnam War and racial and social inequality. What are we rebelling against now?

If I am honest I'm rebelling against my own indifference. I am rebelling against the idea that the world is the way the world is and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. So I'm trying to do some damned thing.

But fighting my indifference is my own problem. What's your problem? What's the hole in your heart? I needed the noise, the applause. You needed the grades. Why are you here in Harvard Square?

Why do you have to listen to me? What have you given up to get here? Is success your drug of choice or are you driven by another curiosity? Your potential. The potential of a given situation. Is missing the moment unacceptable to you? Is wasting inspiration a crime? It is for a musician.

If this is where we find our lives rhyme. If this is our common ground, well, then I can be inspired as well as humbled to be on this great campus. Because that's where I come from. Music.

But I've seen the other side of music -- the Business. I've seen success as a drug of choice. I've seen great minds and prolific imaginations disappear up their own ass, strung out on their own self-importance. I'm one of them.

The misery of having it all your own way, the loneliness of sitting at a table where everyone works for you, the emptiness of arriving at Aspen on a Gulfstream to stay in your winter palace. Eh, sorry, different speech ....

You know what I'm talking about -- you've got to keep asking yourself why are you doing this? You've got to keep checking your motives.

Success for my group U2 has been a lot easier to conjure than, say ... relevance. RELEVANCE ... in the world, in the culture.

And of course, failure is not such a bad thing ... It's not a word that many of you know. I'm sure it's what you fear the most. But from an artist's point of view, failure is where you get your best material.

So fighting indifference versus making a difference. Let me tell you a few things you haven't heard about me, even on the Internet.

Let me tell you how I enrolled at Harvard and slept with an economics professor.

That's right -- I became a student at Harvard recently, and came to work with Professor Jeffrey Sachs at CID -- to study the lack of development in third-world economies due to the crushing weight of old debts those economies were carrying for generations.

It turns out that the normal rules of bankruptcy don't apply to sovereign states. Listen, it would be harder for you to get a student loan than it was for President Mobutu to stream billions of dollars into his Swiss bank account while his people starved on the side of the road. Two generations later, the Congolese are still paying. The debts of the fathers are now the debts of the sons and the daughters. So I was here representing a group that believed that all such debts should be cancelled in the year 2000. We called it Jubilee 2000. A fresh start for a new millennium.


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