Sir Elton John was moved to tears as President Joe Biden surprised the enduring music icon with a National Humanities Medal.
John, at the White House on Friday to perform at an event called “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” looked visibly shocked and humbled as the president addressed the thousands in the audience. “Tonight is my great honor, and I mean this sincerely, to present the National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John,” Biden said.
A White House officer elaborated on John’s contributions, saying, “The President of the United States awards this National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John for moving our souls with his powerful voice, one of the defining songbooks of all time. An enduring icon and advocate with absolute courage, who found purpose to challenge convention, shatter stigma and advance a simple truth: that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
It was a bipartisan night on the South Lawn of the White House, which was packed with teachers, first responders, and veterans, as well as Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager.
Over the course of the evening, John, received a total of seven standing ovations as he delighted the crowd with some of his biggest hits, including “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Your Song” and “I’m Still Standing.”
John spoke throughout the night about the advocacy and work he’s done since creating the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1991, adding that he wants to eradicate the disease by 2030. “We can do it, and we will,” he said defiantly.
He also thanked George W. Bush, who was not in attendance, for his “astonishing” work to expedite the fight against HIV and AIDS. He addressed the former president’s wife, saying, “President Bush accelerated the whole thing with his PEPFAR bill. We would have never gotten as far without President Bush — please tell him for me, give him a big hug. I just wish America could be more bipartisan on everything.”
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