WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - With bustling Constitution Avenue and the Washington Monument as a backdrop, Tina Brown, editor in chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, kicked off her first annual Hero Summit Wednesday night at the United States Institute of Peace.
The goal of the summit, Brown said, is to bring together military heroes and exceptional civilians for meaningful dialogues and information-sharing.
"I do feel there is this disconnect between those who've served and those who haven't that keeps coming up in discussion. When you talk to people in military, there's a sort of quiet rage about that," she said. "They feel they have so much to talk about and so much to offer, but they're not really being heard and everyone just doesn't get it."
One of the exceptional civilians Brown invited to contribute to the evening was U2 frontman and celebrity activist Bono, who during the Hero Summit dinner, interviewed his hero, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
"He's one-of-a-kind," Bono gushed of Kristof. "He's a journalist who became an activist; I'm a songwriter who became an activist. ... Nick actually follows through on every article. ... So, he's an activist par excellence who does two jobs now, and I'm attracted to ambidextrous folks."
The Irish rocker also spent his time in D.C. on Capitol Hill and meeting with the World Bank to talk about the U.S. economy and its potential impact on an issue near and dear to him: HIV/AIDS research.
"You're all talking about driving off the fiscal cliff, as well as causing chaos in the United States economy. The sequestering that would follow that would absolutely destroy countless human lives," Bono said. "We've estimated just in HIV/AIDS alone, that 270,000 people would lose their chance to go on (antiretroviral drugs)."
Bono was front and center at the Hero Summit dinner, which featured what Brown billed as a "theatrical-journalism event" during which heroes were interviewed live in front of the gathered audience.
Veteran PBS journalist Charlie Rose chatted with Admiral William McRaven, who led the fatal raid on Osama bin Laden last spring and ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz questioned the medevac helicopter unit of Dustoff 73, which rescued wounded U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan during a 60-hour mission last summer.
Bono praised Kristof onstage for his Pulitzer Prize-winning work all over the world giving voice to the voiceless and highlighting the struggles of the poor and enslaved through his writing.
"I was very surprised when he said Nicholas Kristof," Brown said of Bono's choice of hero. "I thought he was going to say somebody like Nelson Mandela. By the way, that was the easiest 'Yes' I've ever got. 'Dear Nick, would you mind on the 14th of November having Bono bring you onstage as his hero?' Within about 20 seconds, it was like, 'Uh, I think I'm free!'"
The Hero Summit continues Thursday with discussions including screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Madeleine Albright and Wolf Blitzer.