(05-20-2004) Bono the Right Choice for Penn -- The Daily Pennsylvanian - U2 Feedback

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Old 05-20-2004, 10:46 AM   #1
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(05-20-2004) Bono the Right Choice for Penn -- The Daily Pennsylvanian

Staff Editorial: In Spite of Critics, Bono the Right Choice for Penn

"My name is Bono, and I am a rock star." So began the address to the University of Pennsylvania graduating Class of 2004 by the U2 frontman, whom President Judith Rodin described as "the coolest speaker ever."
Some at Penn have criticized the choice of the Irish rocker ever since that choice was announced, saying alternatively that Bono, who moonlights as an AIDS and Third World debt activist, would be either too political or not serious enough for the occasion. However, having seen the newly-minted Honorary Doctor of Laws speak, we believe that Bono was indeed the right choice.

There are justifiable criticisms to be made of Bono's address. He spent a sizable portion of his time speaking about himself and the striking challenges of poverty and AIDS in the developing world. Instead of such commentary, part of his audience may have preferred the set of life lessons that often characterizes commencement speeches.

However, there is more than one model for such orations, and political speeches are far from uncommon. Yet, despite much anticipation of what Bono might say, in the end his words provided an admirable balance of humor, gravity and inspiration.

Bono spoke of his personal experiences. Yet he did so with self-deprecating humor, irony, and more than a pinch of pedagogic intent. Bono spoke of the serious obstacles faced by developing nations. But he did so not merely in the abstract, but rather as representative of the difficult challenge of following one's ideals. As Bono said, "The going rate for change is not cheap. Big ideas are expensive."

Social justice was one of the big ideas that Bono championed, but he also embraced the idea of America. In a time when America's relationship with the world has been tested, it was refreshing to hear a foreigner praise America's ideals as transcendent and noble values.

Bono himself no doubt recognized that he was an unlikely choice to address the graduating class of an Ivy League university. He said, "I don't think that there's anything more unseemly than the sight of a rock star in academic robes." But while some graduates are addressed by political figures or Kermit the Frog, Bono provided a welcome balance between profundity and comedy. And as his address was covered in newspapers across the English-speaking world and beyond, the free publicity his appearance provided Penn is a welcome added benefit.

In short, in spite of critics' doubts, Bono was the right choice for the 2004 commencement speaker.

--The Daily Pennsylvanian
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