Madiba tribute: Bono

By Kirstin Buick
06 December 2013

Bono pays tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Frontman of Irish rock band U2, activist

One of the first times I met Madiba was when my friend [supermodel] Naomi Campbell put together a concert in Barcelona for one of his charities. So we went to the concert and Madiba was to walk on with myself and Naomi at 7.30 pm but there were only 1 000 people there. So we waited till 8.30 pm: 2 000. At 9 pm, there were about 5 000 which in a stadium for 20 000 wasn’t a pretty sight. Who was going to tell the great man? Nobody seemed to want to so they just turned the lights off and hoped he wouldn’t notice! So we walk out on stage and I’m just staring at my shoes. Madiba comes to the microphone and says, “It’s a dangerous thing to have high expectations. And I want you people to know in Barcelona that I had high expectations of this event.” I’m staring harder at my shoes! “What can I tell you? You people have given me a reception I could never deserve. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for turning up and turning out for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.”
'If you’ve spent all those years in prison, the glass doesn’t look half empty.'

And I look out. Same amount of people but I swear it looked full. It was one of those moments. It was a real lesson for me because it’s the way he sees the world. It wasn’t an act; he genuinely was thrilled that so many people had turned up. If you’ve spent all those years in prison, the glass doesn’t look half empty.

I’m one of these people who have to constantly remind myself of such things, but he turned the event completely around. With your words you make things true sometimes. And I guess he’s been doing that all his life: speaking the words, describing South Africa before it existed, bringing it into existence by speaking about it as if it was.

Click here for more tributes to Tata.

Extracted from Mandela: The Authorised Portrait 

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