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Global Lessons From a Rock Star

By Matt Gray
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 18, 2005


When most people drop $100 on a concert ticket, poverty is the last thing on their mind. Bono was probably aware of this, but that wasn't about to stop him from opening his audience's eyes to a great challenge that they might not have known they were facing. Last week's U2 concerts in Glendale Arena featured some great music, but they also had one unrelenting request: Keep your eyes on Africa.

While most people probably didn't feel like an entire continent had slipped their mind, one phrase seemed to catch everyone by surprise: "a tsunami a month." That's about how many people die preventable deaths in Africa day in and day out. Every month, Africa loses 160,000 people to disease and other effects of extreme poverty.

So if more people in Africa have died since the tsunami hit than died in the tsunami itself, why haven't we all put the same kind of effort into poverty relief as we have into tsunami relief? The answer is simple: The tsunami replayed on our televisions every night for a month while the people of Africa have continued to suffer in silence. The crisis in Africa has gone on for years, but it is out of our American sight and out of our American mind.

After Sept. 11, 2001, Americans' generosity was overwhelming. The country came together and gave enough money to provide for all the grieving families. We were not about to let the tragedy defeat us, so we sacrificed and changed our priorities to lift up those in need. History will never forget our response in the late months of 2001, but what will it say about our efforts to help a region that loses more lives than Sept. 11 every day? Can we rally that same spirit of generosity and human understanding for a much greater challenge?

The One Campaign believes that we can and that awareness is the key. This group, which features leaders ranging from rock stars like Bono to movie stars like Brad Pitt to evangelical stars like Pat Robertson, is going to make sure you know about Africa. They don't want your money. In fact, their Web site doesn't take donations. Instead, all they want is for you to read and learn until you understand the African crisis and maybe wear a wristband.

Or at least that's what they want you to believe. The truth is, they know us Americans all too well. They know you dropped that $20 into the Red Cross tub on Sept. 15, and then did the same a few days after the tsunami. The members of the One Campaign know that once you understand the everyday tragedies that occur in Africa, you won't be able to forget. Once you've seen the faces, heard the stories and learned what you can do to help, human nature will take over from there.

Bono's hope is that this will be the hallmark achievement of our generation. He speaks fondly of those before us that defeated communism and ended apartheid, but he hopes that we'll do one better. It won't be easy. Lifting millions of people out of life-extinguishing poverty isn't the sort of thing that you can do in a weekend. Luckily, we happen to be citizens of a superpower. Once this nation dedicates itself to doing something, we find a way to make it happen. Just ask Saddam Hussein.

It's time we put our collective mind on Africa, the worldwide capital of human suffering. Get the facts, become informed, and then help your friends and family do the same. We have food and we have medicine. They desperately need food and desperately need medicine. Once we all put two and two together, there will be no stopping the immense good that flows when the American people are dedicated to a higher purpose.

If right now you saw someone across campus bleeding and broken, you'd run for help. Across the sea, Africa is bleeding and broken. We need to see it and run for help.
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