“The idea that there’s a force of love and logic behind the universe is overwhelming to start with, if you believe it,” he told me in his raspy brogue, sipping black coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. “But the idea that the same love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in shit and straw and poverty is genius. And it brings me to my knees, literally. To me, as a poet, I’m just in awe of that. It makes some sort of poetic sense. It’s the thing that makes me a believer, although it didn’t dawn on me for many years.”
- Bono on Christmas and the Incarnation from The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People (p. 10) by Cathleen Falsani. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Kindle Edition.
“I hope so,” the young fellow beside her said before continuing, “My dad would freak. He was a big fan of U2 when I was growing up. He used to play this one album, The Joshua Tree, over and over again.”
His father was a fan.
I am a thousand years old, I thought to myself, as more Georgetown students filled the seats around me at the university’s 111-year-old Gaston Hall, the main lecture hall on campus named after Georgetown’s first student, William Gaston, who later served as a member of the U.S. Congress.
The hall, decorated with stunning art-deco-era frescos and the crest of every Jesuit institute of higher learning, has hosted many dignitaries over the years, including Presidents Obama and Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to name but a few.
“So if he’s not going to sing, is he just going to talk,” another student asked, with a distinct whiff of disappointment in his voice.
“I hear he’s an awesome speaker, though,” still another student said.
The students who packed the auditorium, many of them from Georgetown’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business and more than a few donning black t-shirts with the insignia of the ONE Campaign (of which Bono is a co-founder), weren’t sure what to expect from the famous Irish rock star and humanitarian.
A concert? A lecture? Another boring speech?
I’m fairly certain none of the students present for Monday night’s event, sponsored by the Bank of America and The Atlantic magazine, anticipated hearing Bono, the 52-year-old lead singer of U2, preach.
But preach he did.
After an introduction by Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America (whose presence was greeted by some grumbling from the students seated around me, one who suggested in a stage whisper that they start a chant from the Occupy Wall Street movement), Bono bounded up to the lectern, grinning with his blue eyes flashing excitement from behind his trademark rose-colored shades.
“Thank you, Brian — a gentleman in a world where, uh, that quality is not always on tap,” Bono began, as the crowd roared. “The band wanted me to say thank you to you too, Brian, because, as you heard, the band are committed to the idea that every school kid in Ireland should have access to free music lessons if they need ‘em. So Brian has been helping us out with that.”
(That seemed to quell any unrest about having one of the world’s leading bankers in the room.)
“I don’t know if this is a lectern or a pulpit,” Bono told the crowd, folding his arms on the wooden podium in front of him, “but I feel oddly comfortable. It’s a bit of a worry, isn’t it? So … welcome to Pop Culture Studies 101. Please take out your notebooks. Today we are going to discuss why rock stars should never, ever be given access to microphones at institutes of higher learning.
“You will receive no credit for taking this class,” Bono joked, “not even street cred — it’s too late for that. I will, of course, be dropping the occasional pop culture reference to give the impression that I know where your generation is at. I do not. I am not sure where I am at.”
Good. I’m not the only one who feels ancient amidst this audience of youngsters, I thought.
“And the first existential question of this class might be, ‘What am I doing in [Gaston] Hall?’” Bono quipped. “I could be down having my third pint at The Tombs….Pop culture references. Rock star does research.”
Score one for said rock star. The room erupted in laughter at the mention of one of the campus’ legendary watering holes.
“I heard Election Night was quite messy on the pint front. Isn’t it amazing how three pints can make everything seem like victory, but four or five and you just know you’re about to taste defeat,” he continued. “Anyway, congratulations are in order. Not just for turning out in record numbers, but — forgetting politics for a minute — for electing an extraordinary man as president. I think you have to say that whatever your political tradition.”
Bono also congratulated the audience for being freed from the “tyranny” of political “attack ads.” Imagine, he said, if they never went away, if attack ads were the norm for everything, even, say, college admissions.
“Hello. We’re Georgetown and we approved this message,” he said in the stoic voice of a political ad announcer. “Let me say a few words about some other fine institutions you might be considering. UVA: Thomas Jefferson, what have they done to you? Syracuse: A school whose mascot is a fruit. Duke: A school that worships the devil.
“Georgetown – you’re in with the other guy! Georgetown has God on its side. Everyone knows God is a Catholic, right?” said Bono, whose late mother was a Protestant and late father, Bob, a Catholic. “Two words: Frank Sinatra. That proves it!”
All jokes aside — and he was terrifically witty throughout his nearly hour long address — Bono turned his attention to his true passion: helping the world’s poorest of the poor.
“I’d like to hear attack ads on things worth attacking. If there was an attack ad on malaria, I’d get that, because 3,000 people die every day — mostly kids — of malaria. Let’s have an attack ad on malaria. Let’s have an attack ad on mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. I’d get that. Choose your enemies carefully because they define you. Make sure they’re interesting enough because trust me, you’re going to spend a lot of time in their company. So let’s pick a worthwhile enemy, shall we?
“How ’bout all the obstacles to fulfilling human potential — not just yours or mine but the world’s potential?” he continued. “I would suggest to you that the biggest obstacle in the way right now is extreme poverty. Poverty so extreme that it brutalizes, it vandalizes human dignity. Poverty so extreme it laughs at the concept of human dignity. Poverty so extreme it doubts how far we’ve traveled in our journey of equality; the journey that began with Wilberforce taking on slavery and a journey that will not end until misery and deprivation are in stocks.”
Were Bono an actual preacher, that was where he would have pounded his fists on the pulpit.
Painted on the wall behind the podium where this unlikely preacher of the Gospel of Social Justice spoke are the Latin words: Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem. Earlier, Georgetown’s president, John De Gioia, reminded the students of their meaning: “For the greater glory of God and the betterment of humankind.”
The Abolitionists. The Suffragettes. The Civil Rights Movement.
Social movements have always been powerful, Bono told the audience, but there is something special about this moment in history — it’s “transformative.”
“This moment, this generation [has] the chance that you have to rid the world of the obscenity of extreme poverty. Wouldn’t that be a hell of a way to start the 21st century?”
You could have heard a pin drop. The kids seated on either side of me were leaning forward in their chairs. They were listening with the attentiveness professors only dream about. Bono had their attention and kept it as he told them about the power they have to make changes — significant, global changes — by the conscious choices they make about how they spend their money, through social media and emerging technologies, by making sure their politicians keep the promises they’ve made about foreign aid funding in Africa and the rest of the developing world.
Something big was happening in the room. You could feel it. A palpable presence. I’d call it the Holy Spirit.
And it reminded me of a night 10 years ago at another college campus, when Bono spoke at my alma mater, Wheaton College in Illinois. At the time, I was traveling with Bono and his organization DATA (a predecessor of ONE) across the Midwest where he was trying to get American evangelicals (in particular) to turn their attention to the AIDS emergency in sub-Saharan Africa and to do something about it as a matter of justice — as a matter of the heart of their own faith.
Bono’s address at Wheaton fell about half-way through the Heart of America tour and it was a turning point not only for the tour, but for the movement it sparked. American evangelicals — the great “sleeping giant,” as Bono called them at the time — woke up, got involved, and worked for change. The monumental successes in alleviating crushing debt, supplying life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs, malaria netting, and the funds to put millions of African children in school for the first time are a testament to what transpired in Wheaton’s Edmund Chapel in early December 2002.
I know students who were there that night who’ve gone on to dedicate their careers and lives to helping the “least of these.” I, too, jaded journalist and wounded evangelical as I was at the time, was changed. Healed. Inspired and transformed.
The same thing was happening in Gaston Hall last night.
“Those people I’ve been talking about today — the poor — they’re not ‘those people,’ they’re not ‘them.’ They’re us. They’re you,” Bono said toward the end of his address. “They dream as you dream. They value what you value. There is no them, only us. The American anthem is not exceptionalism, it’s universalism. There is no them. Only us. Ubuntu. ‘I am because we are.’ There is no them. Only us.”
Maybe it’s a sheer coincidence (I’m doubtful) that the motto of Georgetown, a Jesuit university, is Utraque Unum, which means “both into one.”
Ultraque Unum in Latin.
Ubuntu in a dialect from South Africa where Archbishop Desmond Tutu — the man Bono only half-kidding says he works for — has taken the word as his own life’s motto.
Bono turned his attention to the Jesuits and their founder St. Ignatius of Loyola, to whom that Latin quote on the wall of the Gaston hall often is attributed.
“St. Ignatius, he was a soldier,” Bono began. “He was lying on a bed recovering from his wounds when he had what they call a conversion of the heart. He saw God’s work and the call to do God’s work. Not just in the church, in everything, everywhere. The arts, universities, the Orient, the New World. And once he knew about that, he couldn’t unknow it.
“It changed him,” Bono said. “It forced him out of bed and into the world. And that’s what I’m hoping happens here in Georgetown with you. Because when you truly accept that those children in some far off place in the global village have the same value as you — in God’s eyes or even just in your eyes — then your life is forever changed. You see something that you can’t unsee.”
Sitting there, tears dripping down my cheeks, I could feel it. Minds were opened. Hearts and eyes were, too.
Who knows when we look back 10 years from now, what the result of some of those Georgetown students seeing what they couldn’t unsee will be.
May we all have the eyes to see it.
Watch Bono’s full Georgetown address below:
Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. She is also a member of the advisory board for ONE Moms, a project of the ONE Campaign. Follow Cathleen on Twitter @godgrrl.
Photo credits: All photos by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.
In a room filled with African heads of state, captains of industry, leaders of international development and countless executives from NGOs at the G8 Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. late last week, stood one Irish rock star — Bono, the lead singer of U2 and co-founder of the ONE Campaign.
At first blush (to the uninitiated, perhaps), Bono’s presence might seem incongruous, but most of the folks in the room at the Ronald Reagan building a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue know the Irishman more for his tireless humanitarian efforts than his closet full of Grammy awards. For more than 25 years, Bono, 52, has been involved deeply and effectively in international affairs as a champion for the poorest of the poor.
“We’ve seen the bleached bones of livestock, we’ve seen emaciated children, the withered crops,” Sen. Pat Leahy said during his introduction of Bono, a dear friend of his for decades. “If we don’t find some way to respond to this then we’ve failed, we’ve failed as a world and it’s a shame on our collective souls….[Bono has been] a passionate powerful voice, he’s stepped up, he’s inspired me he’s inspired others
“Because of him, there are millions of people millions of children, who have a better life today, who will never know Bono, who will never meet Bono, but because he spoke to power around the world, and spoke to our individual conscience, to our better angels – because of him, they will have a better life,” Leahy said.
Bono spoke Friday not long after President Obama addresssed the symposium to announce the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition — an historic effort between G8 member nations, African countries and the private sector designed “to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth.”
A key part of the new alliance is the promise of $3 billion in investments from more than 45 private sector firms around the globe, including U.S. seed, chemical and agricultural equipment companies DuPont, Monsanto and Cargill, for agricultural programs on the African continent in the next few years.
“If you listen – and actually at the ONE campaign we really try to listen to what people in the developing world want – they will say, ‘We have a lot of what we want already we just can’t get to it,’” Bono said. “‘Make it easier for us to do business,” they tell us, “for our entrepreneurs, for our farmers.’”
“Well, President Obama is talking business this morning. Secretary Clinton is about to talk some business. And we think that’s great. They’re bringing U.S. companies and African business leaders together. That’s exciting. This G8 — its’ not just an aid agenda, it’s a trade agenda. Of course it is. What do you think we are? We understand this.”
In his nearly 20-minute speech, Bono hailed the progress that has been made in combatting extreme poverty, hunger and disease in Africa in recent years. The key to that success and any in the future, he insisted, is one thing: Transparency.
Africa may be home to 400 million of the world’s poorest of the poor, but it is also one of the richest lands on Earth in terms of untapped natural resources (both geological and human), he said. As Africa’s bountiful resources — gold, oil, natural gas, precious metals and mineral deposits — are extracted in the coming years, without transparency billions of dollars will find their way into the pockets of a corrupt few rather than the African people who need and deserve them.
“Can we manage the oil as well as the farmland? Manage it properly, responsibly, transparently?” Bono asked the audience. “Because when we don’t, you know what happens. Hundreds of billions of dollars got lost to oil and gas corruption in Nigeria. That’s what the watchdog groups are telling us. Just mind blowing. Huge numbers.
“Crops need sunlight. So does resource extraction. Both need sunlight’s disinfecting glare. Isn’t transparency the vaccine to prevent the worst disease of them all? Corruption. Everybody here knows that corruption kills more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. So that’s what I want to leave you with. That very simple word. That very simple concept. Easy to say. Much harder to realize, especially in law. The word ‘transparency.’
“We won’t have food security without it,” he said. “But we will have oil riches without it but those riches will be held and hidden by very few hands.”
Here below is the transcript of Bono’s address. You can watch the video of his speech in its entirety HERE. His talk begins at the 4:27:30 time mark.
Better said of Pat Leahy, I would say, prizefighter for the world’s poor. What a sort of righteous voice. Louder – louder than any rock band, actually, that big voice. He’s been to a few U2 shows but I think at heart, he’s a Dead Head. Yes, the mans’ a follower of the Grateful Dead, even with that shiny pate. But no greater prizefighter for the world’s poor and the people who deserve the compliments he’s just handed out are actually in this room.
Thank you, Pat.
And thank you for having me at this incredible forum. It’s a decision you may shortly regret.
You may have noticed that I’m one of the few speakers whose name isn’t preceded by His Excellency or the Honorable. My name is usually preceded by other adjectives. Use your imagination – you’re probably right.
I’ve only 10 minutes, so let me jump in. Ten minutes is not long if you’re Irish.
As some of you know it was a famine in Ethiopia by way of Live Aid that brought me into development issues 25 years ago. One of the not unimportant advantages of ending world hunger would be that you wouldn’t have to listen to me or my friends singing about feeding the world when you’re actually doing it. So there’s a lot at stake here.
Strange to say but it’s not just music that is subject to the whims of fashion – development too. Hunger was kind of off the map in some quarters. Agriculture was old hat in some quarters. Boring. Unsexy. Of course it’s not boring if you live in the Sahel, it’s wasn’t boring to some of the people in this room and outside of it who have been agitating for some time now. This issue lies at the very heart of self-sustaining development. People like Jeff Sachs, Bill Gates, Mo Ibrahim, Tom Arnold I thought I saw there from CONCERN. David Beckmann. I see a lot of friends. The Chicago Council itself whoa re hosting today, I’d like to thank them for their work raising and banging the drum…So thank you.
The president of the United States as it turns out is also one of them. So I think we should give it up for the president because if the words of his speech this morning are turned into bold action in partnership with the developing world and the private sector, then today was a real moment. And we would love that to be true, and I think that might be true.
Now, Irish people like to think we understand food insecurity. You see, 150 years ago 2 million of us lost our life to the famine and another 2 million became policemen in New York, Boston, Chicago. In those three cities, I’ve never had a speeding ticket. Never! But I’m not going to talk about Ireland or Ethiopia and my time there then or more recently because you’re the professionals, you’re the experts. You’ve seen more than I’ve seen, you’ve seen things you don’t want to have seen, things that have changed the way you see everything else. Things that have changed.
Certainly the conversation has changed. Aid is way, way smarter than it was because of science, technology, accountability, learning from mistakes. And one more thing: It’s finally dawning on most of us that the continent that contains the most poverty also contains the most wealth. Four hundred million of the world’s poorest are in Africa, but the continent is rich. Richer than rich. I mean the land and what’s beneath it.
Imagine 19th century America — plus elephants. Imagine a place of unbelievable plenty. A place bursting at the seams, bursting at the seams of gold, reserves of oil, gas, gold, tin, colt and copper. You heard the president talk about how much of the world’s undeveloped arable land is on the continent of Africa. I think it’s 60 percent. Not to mention the human resources living on top of this wealth. That’s the Africa that’s in the room today and I don’t dare to speak on its behalf. I speak as a fan.
A lot of people say the 21st century is about China. Well, ask the Chinese ‘cuz they’re all over Africa. They figured out by 2050 the population of Africa will nearly double China’s. Think about that. Ask Walmart. Walmart invested $2.4 billion in Africa. They see the potential. Actually not just the potential, they see the reality.
How many of the Americans here, how many of the Europeans (yuck), wouldn’t swap your economic growth rate with much of Africa’s right now. So the challenge is not the old one of how to make up for a lack of resources, the challenge is how to well manage an abundance of resources and how to make sure this bounty benefits all people over the long term, not just the few people in the short term; how to use this plenty to eliminate poverty, extreme poverty, and this is new.
Now, though the old problems persist, I think you can see today that the way we’re addressing them is different and it has to be. What President Obama’s announced today is new, it’s a new approach to managing these resources as partners, not patrons. Horizontally, not vertically. Not what we give to them but what we, all of us, can do to take plans that are country owned, country led and help them succeed. By the way there are country devised plans ready today that if they are fully supported that will get us to that magic number of 50 million being lifted out of poverty. There are 30 plans ready today to get to that 50 million number being lifted out of poverty. That will prevent millions from stunting.
You know what is absolutely maddening – I know you know – you’re standing in front of some beautiful child who is clearly no longer hungry, but there’s something missing. That cognitive dissonance. And you realize how vulnerable those early years are.
You don’t have to be poor to be utterly impoverished by that sight.
And by the way it’s not just African governments that we’re in partnership, it’s African business, African civil society. That’s what’s changing this whole debate. We’re listening. Can we listen enough? No. So what we’re talking about this morning is what all of us can do to unlock what’s in the soil, in the seed, in ground, in the rock beneath our feet.
Well there’s one rock above ground that I can see now. You know what it is? It’s a headstone. A big slab of granite on what we around here used to call the “donor recipient relationship.” As you know, it’s been dead for a while and this is not even the funeral. This is the wake. It’s kind of an Irish wake. Ya know, people are in a better mood than they should be, just for a second we can raise a glass to past accomplishments in the old mode because some amazing things did happen. Debt cancellation, PEPFAR, Global Fund, MCC. Some crazy and bizarre things happened, too. Rock stars campaigning for historic AIDS initiatives in Krispy Kremes in the Midwest truck stops. And then the darker toe of undergraduates enforcing structural adjustments on countries they’ve never even visited. Ah the good ol’ days.
Let’s see today as a wake for all of that and its’ come at the right time. Why? Cuz’ guess what? We’re broke.
When the ONE campaign and I go busking for development assistance in this capital and the capitals of Europe in some quarters of the word “aid” sounds like an expletive. Really. It’s like you’ve brought a bad smell into the room. It’s like, ‘Ooh, that guy’s got body odor.’ But we need aid. Of course we still need aid. Of course we do. Does anyone disagree? Anyone apart from brain-dead, heart-dead idealogues or professional controversialists.
Come on. Everybody sane, every sensible person knows that.
The L’Aquila promises must be kept and be a baseline going forward and we’ve got to keep overall aid budgets on track, which is really a tough sell in these times. Has anyone been to Europe lately? Is it still there? I’m a proud European and I believe in the EU. Most people call us the IOU. Zero-point-seven commitment is a serious commitment but it’s under threat and so are the lives that it will support.
Very few countries have been courageous enough to keep their promises on aid. Ireland’s actually been doing it. Sweden and Norway, double doing it. The UK is doing it too. If you see David Cameron having an austerity pint at the bar, please shake his hand. It’s probably a gin and tonic, but shake his hand. Because this is serious leadership, serious courage and it puts him in a fantastic position to build his partnership for next year’s G8 in the UK. We’re counting on Germany, we need France, we need Spain. And let’s face it, a world without Italy would just be boring, ya know. (Thank God he’s gone.)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years of doing this stuff it’s that paternalism – the old way we did development – is no match for partnership. It’s through a partnership, north and south, rich and poor, business and government that will reach our real goal. It’s the thing we all want. It’s the moment that we make aid history. It’s by partnership that we can hasten the day when the developing world will not only feed itself, but feed the rest of us. Because 9 billion people can get pretty hungry. A few weeks ago ONE CEO Mike Elliott was asking Greg Page, the head of Cargill, if a global population of 9 billion (which is where we’re headed) can actually feed itself. “Oh it can be done,” Page replied, “but it can’t be done without Africa.”
If you listen – and actually at the ONE campaign we really try to listen to what people in the developing world want – they will say, “We have a lot of what we want already we just can’t get to it.
“Make it easier for us to do business,” they tell us, “for our entrepreneurs, for our farmers.”
Well, President Obama is talking business this morning. Secretary Clinton is about to talk some business. And we think that’s great. They’re bringing U.S. companies and African business leaders together. That’s exciting. This G8 — its’ not just an aid agenda, it’s a trade agenda. Of course it is. What do you think we are? We understand this.
Look I could and should go on about Feed the Future more than I am, but I’ve only go ta few minutes left, so instead I ask for your indulgence. Top soil isn’t the only resource we wish to mention here. There are riches. There are riches deeper down.
So before I quit I want to say a few words about oil and gas and precious metals and minerals. Rock stars love shiny things. This is the bling part of my speech. I know I’m over 10 minutes, but just stick with me.
$246 billion. That’s a lot of bling. That’s the value of what Africa’s extractive sector exported in 2009. Six times larger than aid receipts, seven times larger than agricultural exports. You don’t need me to tell you what wealth on that scale could mean for investments in health, education, roads, electricity. The lot. A lot. A lot of power to transform lives. But only if we don’t blow the cash.
I know I’m not the best spokesman for responsible budgeting. I once bought a hotel. I thought because I stay in a lot of them I’d know how to run one.
But I do at least know that it’s essential that we don’t blow these extraordinary resources.
Can we manage the oil as well as the farmland? Manage it properly, responsibly, transparently?
Because when we don’t, you know what happens. Hundreds of billions of dollars got lost to oil and gas corruption in Nigeria. That’s what the watchdog groups are telling us. Just mind blowing. Huge numbers.
Crops need sunlight. So does resource extraction. Both need sunlight’s disinfecting glare. Isn’t transparency the vaccine to prevent the worst disease of them all? Corruption.
Everybody here knows that corruption kills more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
So that’s what I want to leave you with. That very simple word. That very simple concept. Easy to say. Much harder to realize, especially in law. The word “transparency.”
We won’t have food security without it. But we will have oil riches without it but those riches will be held and hidden by very few hands.
Transparency. When promises are made we need to know what they are and how they’ll be fulfilled.
Transparency. When tax dollars are being spent we need to know what good they’re doing.
Isn’t it striking that the people who know the very least about aid flow are the people who pay for it – the taxpayers – and the people whose lives depend on it.
That is insane.
According to the World Bank, since debt cancellation an extra 46 million children are going to school today across Africa. That is incredible, is it not?
But how do we know? Because we insisted on tracking the money.
An extra 46 million children going to school because of solid accounting and smart African leadership. This is ffffnnmm…GREAT!
That’s what we need to do whether we’re talking about aid flows or private investments or national budgets. Track where the money is coming from, and where it goes and what good it’s doing.
This will root out corruption, this will help stem land grabs, this is more efficient. More importantly, it will strengthen the hand of the poorest in whose name this is supposed to be happening.
Look, U.S. Congress has done something truly seismic in this respect, something transformative for the world’s poor and we didn’t even talk about it today, really. Nobody knows about it, nobody except the African leaders who are here. They know all about it.
You know that Congress required extractive companies to publish what they pay to oversees governments project by project with no exceptions. It’s huge. This is knowledge that citizens can use to hold their leaders accountable. It is great stuff.
I personally met with 12 out of the G20 heads of state, rakes of finance ministers on this point. We’re so excited about it.
Why are we doing this? Because we’re listening. We’re listening to the people we seek to serve. And this is what they’re telling us to do.
So if I’ve gone too long and if you’re scratching your heads about why I’ve started on about extractives at an agriculture and nutrition event – and I know Raj [Dr. Rajiv Shah, head of the USAID]isn’t – as we approach 9 billion people on this finite planet, resource scarcity will be a recurring theme and risk factor.
These agendas of food, of land, of water, timber, fisheries, energy — renewable or otherwise — they’re actually the same agenda.
And that’s the key thing I want to leave you with this morning. It’s the same agenda. What started today, what President Obama has announced today, is a sign of what the G8 — and the G20 in six weeks time — can achieve. This can be a one-two punch on a resource agenda that to make this a very memorable year. In the middle of all this economic awfulness something could actually happen here.
Africa rising. Africa starving. It’s the clash of the clichés. Poverty and plenty. They’ve coexisted in Africa, they coexist here. You heard the president talk about hunger in America. This is the paradox of the world we live in and that most people in this room have given their lives to resolve.
And can I say, to end, can I say how humbled I am to be in this company. I work hard on this, part-time. You have spent your lives trying to cure these ills — your whole lives — to cure the most troubling contradictions of life on this Earth. It’s hard but you’re still here. Still fighting this fight. Even fighting about how to fight this fight. — a fight toward fairness, against despair, against the depravity and the depressing injustice of hunger.
This could be the moment when the people you serve, the people who till the soil, who draw the well from deep down beneath it, see most or more of that benefits of that vital work. This could be the moment that all of us as partners see the scales tip from poverty toward plenty. How peaceful this century turns out to be and how prosperous it turns out to be might just depend on this.
Thank you for your patience. Thank you.
Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. You can read Cathleen’s spiritual profiile of Bono in her book The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People. Follow her on Twitter @GodGrrl.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from experience, from other people, and (I hope) from God. They’ve been helpful to me. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you, too.
1. Begin each day by looking in the mirror and saying, “It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.”
2.. While looking in the mirror, try not to judge yourself. You are beautifully and wondrously made. Period.
3. Do not be afraid of your doubts. Certainty — not doubt — is the opposite of faith.
4. Often we must make a choice: You can be kind or you can be right. Choose kindness.
5. God will not fit in a box of our making or anyone else’s.
6. The things we think we know about God usually say more about us than they do about God.
7. Perfect love casts out fear. And even imperfect love does a pretty good job.
8. Jesus is the water of life. Stay hydrated.
9. Listen to children. They know more about God than we do.
10. We can learn the most from the people we think are the least like us.
11. God doesn’t believe in “us” and “them.”
12. God chooses all of us.
13. Pay attention to the things that bring a lump to your throat or a tear to your eye because they mean the Holy is drawing closer.
14. God does and will use any and all means possible to get your attention.
15. Pay attention. Listen to your life. All moments are key moments.
16. The go-between God makes the connections for us with the people we’d never connect with otherwise.
17. God can be found just as powerfully between people — in relationships — as in people.
18. God doesn’t “give” people diseases, hardships, heartaches or other horrors. But God walks with us through disease, hardship, heartache and horror.
19. God is with the poor. We should be, too.
20. Whether you believe in God doesn’t make a lick of difference to God. God still is and still loves you, even if you don’t believe it.
21. Just like sunshine, rain, wind and the stars, God’s grace is for everyone.
22. Grace is the oxygen of religious life. Without grace, religion can suffocate you.
23. Sometimes being grace for another person means holding space for them until they’re ready to move into it.
24. If you happen to be in the room when Grace starts to dance, you should probably dance, too.
26. All truth is God’s truth, no matter who says it or where it comes from. If it’s true, it’s from God.
27. None is worthy but all are welcome in God’s house. So what part of “all” don’t you understand?
28. When Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek,” he didn’t offer a caveat such as, “Unless they’re really mean, wrong, offensive, stupid, ugly or your enemy.”
29. God doesn’t sweat the small stuff, but doesn’t mind helping us out when we do.
30. God has only one enemy: Hatred.
31. Every good, beautiful, perfect, inspiring, moving, joyful, sustaining, edifying, unifying, loving, gracious, whimsical, happy, life-giving, soul-stirring, paradigm-shifting, preconceived-notion-busting, kind, generous, equitable, alive thing is a gift from God.
32. If you can pry your sweaty, white-knuckled hands off the reigns of your life and trust God to take them, it’ll get better.
33. Sometimes when you think you can’t do it, if you just lean in the right direction, it’s enough.
34. When Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, the miracle didn’t happen until his disciples gave away the two fish and five loaves of bread.
35. Usually God doesn’t hand us our luggage until we’re about to board the plane.
36. When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
37. When you start making plans like you’re in charge, God begins chuckling. God has a tremendous sense of humor and the ironic.
38. Faith is a gift, just like the ability to tap dance, surf, make a soufflé, draw a perfect circle, play by ear, compose music, juggle flaming batons, make a three-point shot and breathe.
39. There is nothing you can do that would make God throw up God’s hands, stomp out of the room and slam the door.
40. God loves you. You can’t do anything to make God love you less. And you can’t do anything to make God love you more.