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Biden surprises Elton John with the National Humanities Medal at the White House


Washington
CNN

President Joe Biden presented Sir Elton John with the National Humanities Medal on Friday, surprising the music icon after a performance on the South Lawn of the White House.

“I’m never dumbfounded, but I am dumbfounded,” a visibly emotional John said, thanking the president and saying he will “treasure” the honor.

The medal, according to Friday’s presentation, was to honor John “for moving our souls with his powerful voice and one of the defining songbooks of all time. An enduring icon and advocate with absolute courage, he found the purpose of challenging convention, breaking down stigma, and promoting the simple truth: that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden had invited John to the White House to thank and praise the singer for his music and his advocacy in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

“As Jill just mentioned, we are joined by so many people that… he is freed to be themselves, to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Families and advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS. A fight he has led with sheer will, a fight for those lives lost and those lives we can save. Leaders who stand up for the equality of all people, no matter who they are or who they love,” the president said.

John was greeted with standing ovations as he performed several hit songs, including “Your Song,” “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer,” during the “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme” concert in collaboration with A&E Networks. and the history channel.

Approximately 2,000 guests were invited to the event and attendees included high-profile guests and government officials such as civil rights advocate Ruby Bridges, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, as well as teachers, nurses , LGBTQ advocates and military families, whom the White House called “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 President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which he began while he was in office and is credited with changing the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS crisis around the world.

“I want to tell the first lady that President Bush sped everything up with his PEPFAR bill. It was the most amazing thing,” 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 could be more bipartisan on everything.”

The night had moments of levity, like when John lightened the mood by taking the stage, joking, “I don’t know what to say. What a dump,” drawing laughter from those in attendance. And it also generated excitement, even as Biden could be seen wiping his hands. tears as John sang “Crocodile Rock”.

The singer previewed the song saying it meant a lot to the president, who used to sing it with his children as he drove them to school. The White House group reported that later in life, the song helped Biden connect with Ella’s son Beau when he was dying of brain cancer and unable to communicate well.

Biden, who noted that his family “like so many Americans” loves John’s music, ended the show by saying thank you.

“On behalf of the American people, thank you, and I mean it, for touching the soul of our nation,” he told John.

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