“I’m never impressed, but I’m impressed,” said a visibly moved John, thanking the president and saying he would “treasure” the honor.
“As Jill just mentioned, so many people have joined us that…they’ve been freed to be themselves, to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Families and advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He’s led the fight with all his will, the lost and the ones we can save. the fight for those lives. Leaders who stand up for equality for all people, no matter who you are or who you love,” the president said.
About 2,000 guests were invited to the event and attendees included high-profile guests and government officials such as civil rights advocate Ruby Bridges, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, as well as teachers, nurses, LGBTQ advocates and military families. The White House named them “everyday history makers.”
“I want to say to the first lady, President Bush accelerated everything with his PEPFAR bill. It was the most incredible,” John said, asking Laura Bush to give her husband a hug on her behalf.
The fight to end the HIV epidemic, John said, is one of the few truly bipartisan issues in the US, adding, “I wish America was more bipartisan.”
The night had moments of levity, such as when John lightened the mood when he took the stage, joking, “I don’t know what to say. What a dump,” drawing laughter from the audience. And it also sparked emotion, including when Biden could be seen wiping away tears as John sang “Crocodile Rock.”
Biden, who noted that his family loves John’s music “like so many Americans,” ended the program with thanks.
“On behalf of the American people, thank you – and I mean this – for moving the soul of our nation,” she told John.