"I am rebelling against the idea that the world is the way the world is, and there's not a damned thing I can do about it."
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for that introduction. First, I should say a few words about who I am and what on earth I'm doing up here.
My name is Bono, and I am a rock star. I tell you this not as a boast but more as a kind of confession. Because in my view the only thing worse than a rock star is a rock star with a conscience, a celebrity with a cause ——oh, dear; oh, dear. But worse yet is a singer with a conscience, a placard-waving, knee-jerking, fellow-traveling activist with a Lexus and a swimming pool shaped like his head. I'm a singer. You know what a singer is. A singer is someone with a hole in his heart almost as big as the size of his ego. When you need 20,000 people screaming your name in order to feel good about your day, you know you're a singer.
I'm a singer. I'm a songwriter. I'm also a father four times over —— just last week. I am a friend to God, a sworn enemy of the saccharine and a believer in grace over karma. I talk too much when I'm drunk and sometimes even when I am not. I am not drunk right now. These are not sunglasses; these are protection. But I must tell you that I owe more than my spoiled lifestyle to rock music —— I owe my worldview. Music was like an alarm clock for me as a teenager and still keeps me awake from falling asleep in the comforts of my freedom. Rock music to me is rebel music. But rebelling against what? In the 50's it was ***ual mores and double standards. In the 60's it was the Vietnam War and racial and social inequality. What are we rebelling against now? If I am honest, I'm rebelling against my own indifference. I am rebelling against the idea that the world is the way the world is and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. So I'm trying to do a damned thing. But fighting my indifference is my own problem.
What's your problem? What's the hole in your heart. I need the noise, the applause. You needed the grades.
Why are you hear in Harvard Square? Why do you have to listen to me? What have you given up to get here? Is success your drug of choice? Or are you driven by another curiosity? Your potential. The potential of a given situation. Is missing the moment unacceptable to you? Is wasting inspiration a crime to you? It is for the musician. If this is where we find our lives rhyme, if this is our common ground, well, then, I can be inspired as well as humbled to be on this great campus because that's where I come from —— music.But I've seen the other side of music —— the business. I've seen success as a drug of choice. I've seen great minds and prolific imaginations disappear up their own ass, strung-out on their own self-importance. I'm one of them. I've seen the misery of having it all your own way, the loneliness of sitting at a table where everybody works for you; the emptiness of arriving at Aspen on a Gulf stream to stay in your winter —— oh, hold on; that's a different speech.
You know what I'm talking about. But you've got to keep asking yourself, "Why are you doing this? " You've gotta keep checking your motives.
Success for my group, U2, has been a lot easier to conjure than, say, relevance —— relevance in the world, relevance in the culture. That's difficult. And, of course, failure is not such a bad thing. It's not a word that many of you know. I'm sure its what you fear the most, actually. But from an artist's point of view, failure is going to get your best material. Let me tell you a few things you haven't heard about me, even on the Internet. Let me tell you how I enrolled at Harvard and slept with an economic professor. That's right. I became a student at Harvard recently, and I came to work with Professor Jeffrey Sachs at CID [Center for International Development] to study the lack of development —— the lack of development in third-world economies due to the crushing weight of old debts those economies were carrying for generations.