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The model for a new approach is Jubilee 2000, which campaigned with great success to reduce developing-world debt. Jubilee 2000 was based in Europe, not the U.S., and its foot soldiers were not liberal activists but churchgoers. I remember covering a huge demonstration at the 1999 G-8 summit in Cologne, Germany, that was led not by black-clad anarchists but by nuns singing hymns. Bono's support for the campaign was critical; he gave a patina of glamour to people who would otherwise have been dismissed as nice but deeply unfashionable.
Now he is convinced that the same coalition can be built in the U.S. In the past few months, Bono has consistently stressed the need for campaigners to work with church groups. Last week he told me of his determination to reach out to "grassroots conservative Republicans." The pitch to the Bush Administration for more foreign aid is deliberately aimed to appeal to both self-interest and idealism. The war against terrorism, Bono argues, needs to be accompanied by "the pursuit of a less dangerous world for Americans, one where 'America' is once again a great idea, contagious and inclusive."
Will that appeal work? I think it might. If my experience talking to people around the country in the past few months is a guide, Sept. 11 changed the way Americans think about international affairs. Far from Washington, issues of global health care, education and poverty are being discussed--at church coffees and student discussion groups--with a new urgency. The days when professionals were considered to have a monopoly on wisdom are ending, thank God. And Bono's advocacy is an important part of that change. "He understands," says Trevor Neilson of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, "that the battle for development is going to be won at the backyard barbecue, not at the Council on Foreign Relations." Fire up the grill.