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U2's Bono: Budget Cuts Can Impact Social Enterprise, Global Change

November 13, 2012 – Irish rock singer and activist Bono said the United States must do what it can to prevent budget cuts that provide for life-saving international aid during a speech last night at Georgetown.

“You must not let this economic recession become a moral recession,” the U2 lead singer told a capacity crowd in Gaston Hall. “That would be double cruelty. … It may take away your generation’s shot at greatness in the wider world.”

He said without U.S. aid to struggling countries, the power shift sparked by Arab Spring might not have been possible, he said.

That type of power shift from people in institutions such as government and business to the masses can provide a huge opportunity for advocates to eradicate poverty and disease, bring justice and change the lives of those suffering around the world, he added.

Curing Poverty and Disease

Bono, who co-founded the anti-poverty advocacy organization ONE and AIDS-fighting initiative (RED), added that economic aid alone to some of Africa’s countries wouldn’t cure poverty and disease.

Bono talked about his experience at an aid-supported Rwandan AIDS clinic that transformed from “death camps” in 2003 when he visited to “birth camps” five years later.

“Cuts can cost the lives of the poorest of the poor,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a hard case to make, but it is right now in the halls of Congress and the Senate.”

But he also said economic aid is not the only answer.

“Aid is just a stopgap,” he said. “Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.”

Preparation for Social Enterprise

You must not let this economic recession become a moral recession. That would be double cruelty.”

Bono, U2

The university’s McDonough School of Business’ Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) co-sponsored the evening event with Bank of America.

GSEI aims to prepare current and future leaders to make responsible management decisions that yield both economic and social value.

MBA student Ammu Menon (G’13) spoke before Bono about being inspired by her classes and the work the musician’s social movements to create change.

“Personally I plan to take much of what I learn from being an active member of the GSEI and from leaders like Bono and carry it with me throughout my career,” Menon said. “They are teaching us important lessons on how to create economic and social value while doing business.”

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said social enterprise expresses the university’s commitment to the betterment of humankind.

“(GSEI’s) goal … is to prepare current and future leaders to create social and economic value in their endeavors,” he said.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan echoed the importance of GSEI and how students can make a difference for global good without sacrificing success.

“This initiative will train future leaders, whether you’re a banker or a musician, to think outside the borders of your day job and try to do more,” he said.

Something You can’t Un-see

Bono encouraged students to think of what they can do to support those in Africa and other developing nations that are in need of justice and comfort.

He compared the effort to how St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, made his commitment to serve others.

“That’s what I’m hoping happens here at Georgetown with you,” he said. “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 in just your eyes, then your life is forever changed, you see something that you can’t un-see.”

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