In the latest and most public phase of Bono‘s ongoing battle against global AIDS and extreme poverty, the U2 singer has assembled an army of A-list celebrities – from Justin Timberlake to Tom Hanks – to encourage Americans to lobby their government for more funding. “We’re not asking for their money, we’re asking for their voices,” Bono said at an April press conference for the One Campaign, which aims to persuade the U.S. government to spend an additional one percent of its budget to assist Africa and other struggling regions. “This isn’t a cause – it’s an emergency.”
The One Campaign kicked into high gear on April 10th with the debut of a TV public-service announcement starring Timberlake, Hanks, Brad Pitt, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and George Clooney. “A lot of what I know about these problems is really because of the involvement of people like Bono,” says Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley, who will appear in a future PSA. “We’re trying to make people aware of these issues.”
The PSA urges viewers to visit the campaign’s Web site, One.org, and electronically sign a declaration endorsing the additional aid, which would amount to about $25 billion a year. Fans who attend shows on U2’s Vertigo Tour can also sign up by tex-ting their name to a special number via cell phone – those names will appear on U2’s video screens during each night’s performance of “One.” “If you ask Bush’s advisers, they say Americans don’t care about these issues,” says Jamie Drum-mond, executive director of Bono’s lobbying group Data (Debt AIDS Trade Africa), which helped assemble the One Campaign. “We need people to raise their voices and say theycare. The celebrities are the fire alarm; the people joining up for the campaign are the fire brigade.” Campaign organizers say 2005 marks a historic opportunity, because three international conferences scheduled for this year – the G8 summit of leaders of the world’s richest democratic countries in July, the U.N. Millennium +5 Summit in September and the World Trade Organization meeting in December – will all focus on Africa. “We’re going to make that kind of extreme poverty history,” said Bono. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life on this.”
This story is from the May 5th, 2005 issue of Rolling Stone.