It was the prominently-placed "George Clooney on Keeping America Free" on the masthead of a glossy magazine that arrived in my mailbox recently which drove me to sigh and promptly insert said glossy into the wastebasket. For Keeping America Free is not a subject that I have any interest in hearing from George Clooney about.
But it is refreshing to come across a celebrity who uses his position responsibly and takes the time to study and think about issues that matter. Someone who uses his immense platform not to throw random, knee-jerk barbs and insults at world leaders and institutions or to demand policies that are completely untenable (sometimes outright asinine).
We have a modern example of this sort in Bono, who, aside from his duties as front man for the Irish supergroup U2, has campaigned in a thoughtful and tireless way to focus the world's attention and resources on seeking real, workable solutions to the increasingly desperate situation in Africa. He's spent an enormous amount of time there -- sans cameras and entourage -- started his own DC-based think tank, and traveled the globe to meet and talk with world leaders of all political stripes without prejudice. And as a result, they're listening. President Bush yesterday spent nearly two hours with him in private conversation over lunch at the White House, as a follow-up to meetings between Bush, Bono, and British PM Tony Blair during this summer's G-8 meeting in Scotland. The relationship that Bono forged with retired Senator Jesse Helms resulted in real progress (and, as the Senator writes in his newly released memoir, a friendship that endures to this day).
I do not agree Bono's agenda in its entirety…that is not the point of this post. But you must admire him for the dignified manner in which he is pursuing that agenda and for investing real time, energy, resources and most importantly, thought into it. He's made himself into a credible authority on the subject, changed some important hearts and minds, and the poorest of the poor are benefiting.
Last evening U2 took to the stage before a sold-out crowd at Washington DC's MCI Center. The crowd didn't hear comparisons of Republicans to Nazis, nor songs about "American Idiots" coming from the stage….these guys know better -- and are better -- than that.