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Sir Elton John was in tears when he surprised President Joe Biden, a perennial music icon with the National Humanities Medal.
John, at the White House on Friday to perform at an event called “A Night When Hope and the Rhyme of History,” sounded visibly shocked and humbled as the president addressed the thousands in attendance. “Tonight is a great honor for me, and I honestly mean this, to present the National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John,” Biden said.
A White House official detailed John’s contributions, saying: “The President of the United States awards the National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John for moving our souls with his powerful voice, one of the defining songwriters of all time. An enduring icon and an advocate with sheer courage, he found purpose to challenge tradition, shattering stigma. Shame and promote a simple truth: that every person 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 educators, first responders, veterans, as well as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and 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 audience with some of his biggest hits, including “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocket Man”, “Your Song” and “I’m Still Standing”. “
John spoke all night about advocacy and the work he’s done since the Elton John AIDS Foundation was created in 1991, adding that he wants to eradicate the disease by 2030. “We can do it, and we’ll do it,” he said defiantly.
He also thanked George W. Bush, who was not present, for his “amazing” work to accelerate the fight against HIV and AIDS. Addressing the ex-president’s wife, he said, “President Bush sped up the whole thing with the PEPFAR bill. We would never have gotten this far without President Bush – please tell him for me, hug him so much. I wish America was more partisan in all things.”
More is coming…