Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bono, Obama's Peace Prize & the MDGs

I for one was surprised when it was announced that President Obama was getting the Nobel Peace Prize. "Too soon," I thought (and I'm a supporter of his, before and after the election).

Leave it to Bono to make me reconsider...

Bono's been writing Op-Eds all year long for the New York Times when he's not working on his day job (fighting extreme poverty) or his night job (lead singing for U2's 360 Tour). His latest effort, Rebranding America, may be his finest work yet!

There’s a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven’t a clue about the real President Obama; instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.

Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them. So here’s why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:“We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

They’re not my words, they’re your president’s. If they’re not familiar, it’s because they didn’t make many headlines. But for me, these 36 words are why I believe Mr. Obama could well be a force for peace and prosperity — if the words signal action.

Leave it to Bono to find the uncovered words of President Obama's that touches on the MDGs and relates to The One Campaign. Bono uses material from one of U2's new songs, Unknown Caller (restart, reboot) to make the rebranding point:

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.

These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man.

All right ... I don’t speak for the rest of the world. Sometimes I think I do — but as my bandmates will quickly (and loudly) point out, I don’t even speak for one small group of four musicians. But I will venture to say that in the farthest corners of the globe, the president’s words are more than a pop song people want to hear on the radio. They are lifelines.

In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob). It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.) This was the melody line of the Marshall Plan and it’s resonating again. Why? Because the world sees that America might just hold the keys to solving the three greatest threats we face on this planet: extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate change. The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.

It is a strangely unsettling feeling to realize that the largest Navy, the fastest Air Force, the fittest strike force, cannot fully protect us from the ghost that is terrorism .... Asymmetry is the key word from Kabul to Gaza .... Might is not right.

I'm amused to hear Bono "talk" about melody lines instead of sing them, but I think he's right on here.The conversation with General Jones is fascinating, but I'll let you read it for yourself, and get to the connections to the Nobel Peace Prize:

The president said that he considered the peace prize a call to action. And in the fight against extreme poverty, it’s action, not intentions, that counts. That stirring sentence he uttered last month will ring hollow unless he returns to next year’s United Nations summit meeting with a meaningful, inclusive plan, one that gets results for the billion or more people living on less than $1 a day. Difficult. Very difficult. But doable.

The Nobel Peace Prize is the rest of the world saying, “Don’t blow it.”

Wow: that's a direct and daunting charge!!! Bono, however, is quick to get us all involved:

But that’s not just directed at Mr. Obama. It’s directed at all of us. What the president promised was a “global plan,” not an American plan. The same is true on all the other issues that the Nobel committee cited, from nuclear disarmament to climate change — none of these things will yield to unilateral approaches. They’ll take international cooperation and American leadership.The president has set himself, and the rest of us, no small task.

Forgive me for sounding like the gushing U2 fan that I am, but Bono is so good at always calling people to their part in it the call to action within every U2 concert, or the simple call to pay attention to what's happening in the world.Finally, the big finish:

That’s why America shouldn’t turn up its national nose at popularity contests. In the same week that Mr. Obama won the Nobel, the United States was ranked as the most admired country in the world, leapfrogging from seventh to the top of the Nation Brands Index survey — the biggest jump any country has ever made. Like the Nobel, this can be written off as meaningless ... a measure of Mr. Obama’s celebrity (and we know what people think of celebrities).

But an America that’s tired of being the world’s policeman, and is too pinched to be the world’s philanthropist, could still be the world’s partner. And you can’t do that without being, well, loved. Here come the letters to the editor, but let me just say it: Americans are like singers — we just a little bit, kind of like to be loved. The British want to be admired; the Russians, feared; the French, envied. (The Irish, we just want to be listened to.) But the idea of America, from the very start, was supposed to be contagious enough to sweep up and enthrall the world.

And it is. The world wants to believe in America again because the world needs to believe in America again. We need your ideas — your idea — at a time when the rest of the world is running out of them

AMEN AMEN AMEN!!! (And bravo Bono, as well!!!)

1 comment:

Carrot Khan said...

I think it was also too soon for him to get the award and hope that he can achieve half of what we elected him for. I still have hope, even as politics as usual are bogging things down.

I hope somehow the award is that extra bit of street cred that will give the "oomph" to get things going".