Feb. 2, 2006 — -- With his signature wraparound glasses hiding his aging, wrinkled eyes, U2 lead singer Bono quoted from Islamic, Jewish and Christian texts at today's National Prayer Breakfast and asked the U.S. government to give an additional 1 percent of the federal budget to the world's poor.
Most important, he used his global star charisma to woo the audience. This may be the greatest asset he and actress Angelina Jolie, another celebrity-turned-activist, share in their efforts to push support for their causes.
Captivating President Bush and members of Congress at the prayer breakfast, Bono said it's unjust to "keep poor people from selling their goods while singing the virtues of the free market, to hold children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents and to withhold medicines that would save lives."
"God will not accept that," he said. "Mine won't. Will yours?"
Bono is known for his activism. And most say his newest crusade has less to do with generating more publicity for himself as a rock singer than with building momentum for efforts to save the world.
He toured Africa in 2003 with Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill to show him firsthand effective development assistance in action. Bono's gamble: That even a fiscal conservative could become committed to a massive effort on AIDS, greater debt relief to Africa, and an increase in assistance targeted to the poorest countries once he'd seen for himself the ravages of AIDS, and the lack of water and other public services that people in those countries face every day.
The result? Some say Bono was instrumental in getting Congress to vote for $350 million for the Global Fund for AIDS TB and Malaria in the 2003 budget.
"The one thing we can all agree -- all faiths, all ideologies -- is that God is with the vulnerable and the poor," Bono said at the prayer breakfast. "God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives. And God is with us, if we are with them."
Jolie, in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, can dazzle politicians not just with her celebrity; it also doesn't hurt that she has traveled to the world's trouble spots in her advocacy work.
Over the last four years, the Oscar-winning actress has traveled to refugee camps and orphanages in dozens of countries, often under dangerous conditions, and has donated millions of dollars to aid efforts.
Though it's hard to say how much impact her advocacy has had, she has clearly had a huge impact on at least two people's lives: She adopted two orphaned children -- Maddox from Cambodia in 2002 and daughter Zahara from Ethiopia in 2005.
Since adopting Zahara in June, international adoption agencies say the number of inquiries about Ethiopian babies has doubled, though the highest adoption numbers remain in China, Russia and Guatemala.