You see it turns out that the normal rules of bankruptcy don't apply to sovereign states.
It would be harder for you to get a student loan than it was for the likes of President Mobutu to stream billions of dollars into his Swiss bank account while his [Congolese] people starved on the side of the road. Two generations later, the Congolese are still paying. The debts of the fathers are now the debts of the sons and the daughters. So here I was, representing a group that believed all such debts should be cancelled in the year 2000. We called it Jubilee 2000. A fresh start for a new millennium. It was headed up by Anne Pettifor based out of London —— with huge support from Africa and the [unintelligible]. With Muhammad Ali, Sir Bob Geldof, and myself acting, at first, just as mouthpieces. It was taking off. But we were way behind in the U.S.
We had the melody line, so to speak. But in order to get it on the radio over here, we needed a lot of help.
My friend Bobby Shriver suggested I knock on the good professor's door. And a funny thing happened. Jeffrey Sachs not only let me into his office, he let me into his Rolodex, his head, and his life for the last few years. So in a sense he let me into your life, here at Harvard. A student, Bono, again —— I was three weeks in a college before this, all right? So then Sachs and I, with my friend Bobby Shriver, hit the road like some sort of surreal crossover act. A rock star, a Kennedy, a noted economist crisscrossing the globe like the Partridge Family on psychotropic drugs. We had the Pope acting as our kind of agent. We had the blessing of various rabbis, evangelists, mothers unions, trade unions and PTAs.
It was a new level of "unhip" for me, but it was very cool. It was in that capacity that I slept with Jeff Sachs, each of us in our own seat on an economy flight to somewhere, passed out like a couple of drunks, but from sheer exhaustion. It was confusing for everyone. I looked up with one eye to see your hero, stubble in all the wrong places, his tie looking like a headband. An airhostess asked if he were a member of the Grateful Dead. （It's more of a mop-top situation today.）Anyway, I have enormous respect for Jeff Sachs, but it's really true what they say: "Students should never sleep with their professors." So while I'm handing out trade secrets, I also want to tell you that Larry Summers, your incoming President, the man whose signature is on every American dollar —— well, he too is a nutcase —— and a freak.
U2 made it big out of Boston —— not New York, not LA.
So I thought if anyone would know about our existence it would be a Treasury Secretary from Harvard. No. When I said I was from U2 he had a flashback from Cuba, 1962. How can I put this? And don't hold it against him —— Mr. Summers is, as former President Clinton confirmed to me last week in Dublin, "culturally challenged." But when I asked him to look up from "the numbers" to see what we were talking about, he did more than that. He did the hardest thing of all for an Economist; he saw through the numbers. And if it was hard for me to enlist Larry Summers in our efforts, imagine how hard it was for Larry Summers to get the rest of Washington to cough up the cash —— to really make a difference for the third of the world that lives on less than a dollar a day. Well he more than tried. He was passionate. He turned up in the offices of his adversaries. He turned up in restaurants with me, a rock star, to meet the concerns of his Republican counterparts...counterparts...contra-parts...?
There is a posh restaurant in Washington where they will not let us in now. Such was the heat of his debate —— blood on the walls, wine in the vinegar.
If you're called up before the new President of Harvard and he gives you a hairy eyeball, drums his fingers, and generlly acts disinterested, let me tell you it could be the beginning of a great adventure for you.（It's a good thing I got here before President Rudenstine hands over the —— uh, anyway...）It is at this point I have to ask —— if your families haven't already —— why am I telling you these stories? It's certainly not because I'm running for role model. I'm telling you these stories because all the fun I had with Jeffrey Sachs and Larry Summers was in the service of something deadly serious. When people around the world hear about the burden of debt that crushes the poorest countries, when they hear that for every dollar of government aid we send to developing nations, nine dollars comes back to us in debt service payments —— did you hear that? For every one dollar in government aid we send to these nations, we receive nine in debt service payments —— when people hear that, they get angry.