Biden surprises Elton John with White House National Humanities Medal

“I’m never impressed, but I’m impressed,” said a visibly moved John, thanking the president and saying he would “treasure” the honor.

The medal, according to Friday’s presentation, was to honor John “for touching our souls with his powerful voice and one of the defining songbooks of all time. An enduring icon and advocate who found purpose with courage, defying convention, breaking stigma and advancing the simple truth: that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden invited John to the White House to thank him and praise the singer for his music and advocacy in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

“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.

John received a standing ovation when he performed a number of hit songs, including “Your Song,” “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer,” in a concert titled “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme” in collaboration with A&E Networks. and The History Channel.

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.”

Speaking between songs, John addressed former first lady Laura Bush, who was also in attendance, acknowledging former President George W. Bush’s “amazing” work on the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which he started while in office and how it has changed. the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS crisis around the world.

“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.”

The singer previewed the song saying it meant a lot to the President as he sang it with his children while driving them to school. Later in life, the song helped Biden connect with his son Beau, who was dying of brain cancer and unable to communicate well, the White House pool reported.

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.