One of those unlikely friends-for-progress is former Pres. George W. Bush. The odd couple got together on Thursday (Apr. 19) for a special honor when Bono was presented with the first annual George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership in recognition of the rock icon’s humanitarian work against global poverty and preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
One of the highlights of the presentation was a video chat between Bush and Bono, in which the singer joked that he was honored to receive the award, but hoped his bandmates didn’t watch the clip, since he forgot to tell them he was dipping out their Canadian rehearsals for the group’s upcoming tour to huddle with No. 43.
“I’ve been trying to explain why I’m here — to be in Texas is a delight — but the rest of the band are in Montreal and they actually don’t know I’m here…I kind of snuck out the back window and this might be the moment where I get fired from U2,” Bono chuckled.
With the former president dressed in a formal tuxedo and Bono rocking his signature tinted, round glasses and a more rock-and-roll tux, sans tie, the two sat comfortably side-by-side in a library and talked about their years of collaboration on humanitarian causes.
Bono thanked Bush for the award and said he was also present to honor the former president for what he called the “greatest intervention in the history of medicine,” PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), an initiative launched by Bush in 2003 to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.
“There’s 13 million lives from PEPFAR and if you add the Global Fund there’s probably about 21 million lives that have been saved by this work that you began and led on and I’m here to honor that,” Bono said, with Bush correcting the rocker and noting that the initiative was a joint effort between the men that would never have gotten out of the U.S. Congress without Bono’s relentless urging.
“The first time I met you you knew more statistics — it was like were coming right out of the CIA, [like] one of these analysts,” Bush said. “That’s the first time anyone’s ever said that, but thank you,” Bono chuckled, as Bush joked that it’s unlikely the Irish star would ever get security clearance for a government job.
“You really had a huge impact,” Bush said, adding that Bono is “the real deal,” lauding the rock singer for his huge heart, talent and deep commitment to spending his time and capital to save human lives.
Paying homage to the president’s mother Barbara Bush, who died earlier this week, Bono showed Bush a moving photo from 1989 of the late First Lady hugging a baby with HIV at the height of the disease’s stigma, calling her the “mother of PEPFar.” The clip ends with the two men saying that it’s a fight that is being won, but is not over.
“Well, Bono, you’re a good man and a dear friend and I thank you here and I can’t wait for you to receive the first award,” Bush said. “Well, I was going to toast your courage for the work you’ve done on HIV/AIDS, but maybe you should be toasted for the courage of giving this to me. That might be your biggest risk.”
Watch the video below.