Photo & video credit: Courtesy of Fullbright Association

”We looked to America,” said Bono referrig to growing up in Ireland. “We saw a country with its own long-running arguments, its own injustices. We knew this promised land wasn’t always keeping to that promise. We knew America wasn’t living up to all its ideals, but the fact is America had ideals. We knew that because you wrote them down, you cited them, you held yourself to account on them. They shaped the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights and gay rights. I don’t know how, but I seemed to know that America wasn’t just a country. I felt it was an idea, if not yet a fact. Even when it got messy. Even when it got wild. America isn’t classical music, America is punk rock, America is hip-hop. I had a sense of America’s wrestling with itself, caught in the act of becoming… becoming itself… becoming its better self.”


“We’re honored to recognize and celebrate Bono’s commitment to fighting injustice, extreme poverty, the global AIDS crisis, and more recently, the disparities in the global COVID-19 response,” said Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin, Fulbright Association Board Chair and Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice. “The purpose of the Fulbright Prize is to recognize those who promote peace through greater understanding among peoples, cultures, and nations, and there’s no doubt that Bono embodies the best of leadership in times of unrelenting global crises and challenges.”

Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin

The Fulbright Association presented Bono, U2 lead singer and co-founder of ONE and (RED), with the 2021 J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding for his commitment to seek justice by fighting to end extreme poverty, tackle global health crises, and spur economic development in the poorest parts of the planet.

“The causes Bono has devoted himself to remain all too relevant today. While affordable treatments have brought HIV/AIDS under control, a new pandemic left Africans at the back of the queue for vaccines,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, who introduced Bono. “So, we will still need Bono to keep up his advocacy work in the months and years ahead. And though he won’t have time to rest on his laurels, there’s no one who deserves this award more than he does.”

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

“William Fulbright talked about ‘the magnetism of freedom’, though he was selective about it,” added Bono. “Even if he missed the full expression of it, in Ireland we felt its pull. And I have ever since. I love this song called America. And I ask you tonight as both fanboy and critic: Can you still hold that tune?” This year, Bono will be donating his $50,000 award to ONE and (RED).

The Scene

“Bono joins a distinguished history of laureates, and the recognition is well deserved,” said John Bader, Fulbright Association Executive Director. “We all have a responsibility to advance peace and understanding, and I hope that Bono’s leadership serves as an example to people around the world that we can all use our time, unique talent, and platform for a greater purpose.”