(01-19-2003) Bono Heads To Florida to Talk DATA - Florida Today

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ONE love, blood, life
Sep 22, 2001
new york city

Celebrities meet in Indian Harbour Beach to address African woes
Celebs address Africa debt, AIDS
By Sharon Biscardi For FLORIDA TODAY

INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH -- A handful of celebrities gathered here this weekend to discuss the future of an organization that they hope someday will change the lives of millions living in Africa.

Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock group U2; international entrepreneur and billionaire George Soros; comedian Chris Tucker and Bobby Shriver, son of Sargent and Eunice Shriver, were among those at a board meeting of DATA, an organization formed to focus on problems in Africa.

The board meeting was Saturday at the Kiwi Tennis Club in Indian Harbour Beach. Ed Scott, owner of the club and co-founder of BEA Systems, Inc., is one of three who initially funded DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa). Soros and the Gates Foundation joined Scott one year ago.

In addition to raising awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa, Scott said that an urgent priority is lobbying for legislation changes to ease the continent's debt burden. African nations spend $14.5 billion each year repaying debts.

With the help of his celebrity board members -- which also includes Ashley and Winona Judd -- DATA is becoming known, Scott said.

Bono, born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, has written lyrics with political messages for years and has long been active in attempting to increase awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa.

Through Shriver -- grandson of Sen. Ted Kennedy -- Bono connected with Bill Gates, Soros and Scott. "We realized we needed an organization to help us get done what was needed in Africa," Shriver said.

Bono's interest in Africa goes back to 1985 and his involvement with the "Live Aid" concert for poverty-stricken Africa.

"My young wife and I worked for a month in Africa (in 1985) and it changed our lives. The beauty of the place, the beauty of the lives so wantonly destroyed," he said. More than fifteen years later, he still is working for that cause.

One of the first initiatives of DATA was Bono's "Heart of America" tour with Tucker and The Judds last month. Traveling to schools and town halls across seven midwest states, the group spoke about the need for the United States and drug companies to do more for Africa.

"As the biggest fan there is of America, and ironically I'm an Irish rock star, let me say this -- I am worried by the dwindling of American foreign assistance over the past 20 years," Bono said. "We're working on the first historic AIDS initiative with the current White House administration. We'll know in a few weeks whether they will do that ? if they do, they deserve applause."

Bono quoted Secretary of State Colin Powell in saying, "AIDS is the greatest foe the world has ever seen."

Bono said he understands that the plight of Africans can seem overwhelming to most Americans, but there is a need to understand the African crisis. "What we tend to see in people in places like Florida is a sort of decency, a sense of response when our neighbors are in crisis. That's what people here still cling to. That instinct to me is America."

Tucker has been to Africa seven times during the past year including a trip with Bono that was filmed and shown on MTV.

"We asked many celebrities to join this cause, many said 'yes,' but Chris has been the only one who showed up," Shriver said.

Tucker began his career as a stand-up comedian but now is popular in feature films. His first major film role was opposite Bruce Willis in "The Fifth Element" in 1997. He most recently starred alongside Jackie Chan in "Rush Hour" and "Rush Hour 2."

"It's a blessing to be able to be in a place to see and learn about it (Africa) first hand," Tucker said.

Soros, Forbes' 37th wealthiest person in the world, echoed the need to raise awareness of issues in Africa. "This is a very good cause and it is important to mobilize civil society to push the government to do more on AIDS -- they're not doing enough, " said Soros, who also is active with Greenpeace.

Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary, survived the Nazi occupation and left communist Hungary in 1947 for England. He moved to the United States in 1956. Soros is the president and chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC and an active philanthropist. He made his estimated $6.9 billion fortune as a mutual fund manager. He recently was fined more than $2 million by the French government on an insider-trading conviction. He denied wrongdoing.

Representing the Gates Foundation at the meeting was David Lane, a native of Indian Harbour Beach and a 1982 graduate of Melbourne High School. Lane runs the Gates Foundation's Washington, D.C., office.

Although happy to be visiting Florida, Bono eagerly admitted he would much prefer to be home in Ireland with his wife of twenty years, Allison Stewart, and their four children. "This is not just a philanthropic issue for me -- it's a justice issue," he said.

Since the formation of DATA, Scott has come to know Bono well. "Bono is an extraordinary human being. He's an extraordinarily decent person, very smart, personally unassuming and extremely passionate," said Scott.

As far as what motivates Scott to be involved in many philanthropic causes is simple ? he feels it's his responsibility. Scott said that most people do not have the resources he does to make major global changes, "Anyone in my position who doesn't allow themselves to do something to change the world is denying themselves a tremendously fulfilling thing."
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