PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The Irish rock band U2 took home the Sonny Bono Visionary Award for their song "Ordinary Love" from the film "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" at the 25th Annual Palm Springs Film Festival on Saturday.
Well-known for his activism, particularly in the space of AIDS intervention and awareness, lead singer Bono took the opportunity to thank America for its efforts in combating the global epidemic.
"I guess this is an award for not shutting up and sticking to what you're good at. This is kind of an award for being a pain in the arse, isn't it? That's what this is," he told the star-studded audience, while standing alongside band mate Edge. "Thank you, America. 7.8 million sentient souls are alive because of AIDS drugs that the United States of America paid for, and they are not just alive, but allowed to thrive, to have healthy kids, to be alive to raise those kids, to work, to contribute to their economies."
Bono also insisted that we are "at the tipping point" for eradication.
"It's amazing to be able to say this — we are actually at the tipping point if we keep up the pressure. We are within reach of declaring the first AIDS-free generation. What a thought. What a thought for this community," He said. "And it's down to the activism of this generation, actors, directors, producers, musicians, but also students, doctors, nurses, priests, NASCAR drivers, soccer moms, CEOs, NGOs, politicians, people who just don't normally hang out together not just hanging out together but working together. And that's what it takes."
The U2 front man said HIV/AIDS has killed 650,000 in the U.S. and 23 million worldwide.
"Our one simple belief is that where you live should not decide whether you live. Now our leader in this campaign lost a son to the disease. His name was Nelson Mandela, the greatest activist of them all... His cleverness was to put aside tribalism and partisanship, the kind of partisanship, I think you'll agree, that has betrayed this great nation and the great American idea at the heart of it, even in the last couple of years," he continued. "It's ironic that by following an African's example, American and European AIDS activists like ONE were successful in encouraging Democrats and Republicans here in the U.S. to put aside their differences and work together on what is turning out to be the largest health intervention in the history of medicine. Thank you, America."
Bono noted that there are now 10 million lives in the developing world saved by antiretroviral therapy, and American taxpayers have paid for about three quarters of them. He also went on to praise Hollywood creatives for constantly illuminating the issue in their scripts, films, TV shows, music, books, and art.
"It is worth mentioning that more people live off their imaginations in California than any other place in the world. No other geography comes close. People around here like to ask questions about the real as well as the imaginary world, and this, of course, is the start of being annoying," he said. "Edge and myself have had our mind and our values shaped by some important books and scribes, but for us, in truth, it was movies and music that kindled that fire and put our imaginations on a course to meet you tonight. So thank you to the visionaries in this room, and you all know that a vision without a promise is just a fantasy, and we're not interested in that."
On a lighter note, Bono shared with FOX411 his amusing chance meeting with the man who founded the festival some 25 years ago, and who he shares a name with: Sonny Bono.
"I met him once but I didn't know I was meeting him. We were in an elevator, standing looking at the numbers. Floors went by, and then this man was going out the door and he turned and said, 'it is (pronounced) BOW-NO, by the way,'" Bono said with a smile. "And I was like, who was that? And then (I realized) that was Sonny Bono. So I am going to change the pronunciation of my name just for this evening."
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