WASHINGTON – Rock star Bono has tried to feed the world and he's tried to heal the world. Now, he's trying to help some U.S. lawmakers teach the world.
The lead singer of the Irish group U2 — and perennial advocate for anti-poverty programs — on Tuesday joined with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and other lawmakers seeking to expand basic education around the world.
"I can't vote for any of them, but I'm thankful for what they're doing," Bono said from Ireland during a conference call with legislators. "This is why I'm a fan — and an annoying fan at times — of America."
The singer joined Clinton and Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., in pushing long-dormant legislation that would add $10 billion to a global fund to provide education to millions of children in Africa and elsewhere.
An estimated 77 million children worldwide — and 38 million in Africa alone — lack access to education up to the sixth grade. Similar data show that the more education a person has, the more money they earn and the less likely they are to be infected with HIV.
The group argued that a generous effort by the United States for the world's poorest children would go a long way toward improving the country's international standing, and reducing the threat of terrorism.
"Young people who are reading books aren't building bombs," said Bachus.
A version of the bill was offered in 2004, but with only Democratic sponsors it went nowhere. Bono and others are hopeful a bipartisan effort could advance the measure.
Action by the United States would also compel European nations to offer even more, Bono argued.
"The United States is just one-third of this. Your money will be certainly doubled up and I will be working on trebling it. I think we can guarantee the double," he said.
Gene Sperling, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, said Washington is slowly warming to the notion that advancing education abroad helps combat problems of poverty, HIV/AIDS and hunger.
"In 2004, it was partisan legislation that seemed like a pipe dream, and the earth has shifted some on the issue of education in developing countries," said Sperling.
Bono has launched a second career of activism, largely focused on development issues in Africa. He has co-founded organizations to fight poverty and HIV/AIDS and to forgive debt.