Bono Likened to Martin Luther King

01/20/2004 AT 08:07 AM EST

Monday's Martin Luther King Day was a special one for U2's Bono, who as a teen in Dublin was deeply affected by the violent unrest in Northern Ireland -- and yearned for a call for peace of the kind once promoted by the Rev. Dr. King, the Associated Press reports.

So palpable were these yearnings, in fact, that the singer (real name: Paul Hewson), 43, wrote a song about the civil rights leader, who was killed in 1968. That song was the 1984 hit "Pride (In the Name of Love)."

Which all leads to Saturday in Atlanta: Bono, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his work to relieve third world debt and promote AIDS awareness, accepted one of the highest honors from the King Center, the organization founded by King's widow, Coretta Scott King.

"We despaired for the lack of vision of the kind Dr. King gave to people in the South," the U2 singer said at the King Center.

As Mrs. King said at the ceremony: "We are fortunate this year to ... honor Bono for exemplifying many of the qualities that my husband, Martin, indicated were imperative to moving our society into the beloved community of which he so often spoke."

The Target Corp. received the same award for its charitable work around the country, says the news service.

"When Dr. King spoke about having a dream, he wasn't just talking about an American dream. It can be an African dream, an Irish dream," Bono said. "That's why I'm excited to be here."

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