An emotional Sir Elton John was left “flabbergasted” after US President Joe Biden presented him with a surprise Humanities Medal recognizing his career and advocacy work to end HIV and AIDS.
After a performance at the White House on September 23, the artist appeared shocked to see the president announce that he would receive the National Humanities Medal.
A proclamation said the award recognized his career “moving our souls with his powerful voice in one of the defining songbooks of all time” and “as an enduring icon and advocate with absolute courage who found a purpose to challenge convention, break down stigma and advance the simple truth that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect”.
“I think we surprised him,” joked the president.
The White House event – ‘A night where hope and history rhyme’ – featured an audience of around 2,000 “everyday story makers”, including teachers, nurses and representatives LGBT+ advocacy groups, among others.
John performed several of his hits, including “Your Song”, followed by “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocket Man”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Crocodile Rock”, before concluding with a ” I am still standing”.
He dedicated “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to Ryan White and his mother Jeanne White-Ginder, who attended the concert. Her son died of AIDS-related complications in 1990, a month before he was to graduate from high school.
The National Medal of Humanities recognized his years-long efforts to end HIV and AIDS through the Elton John Aids Foundation, which he started in 1992.
The organization has since raised more than $600m (£553m) to fund efforts to tackle the AIDS pandemic on four continents. It aims to help eradicate the virus by 2030.
“I’m never flabbergasted, but I’m flabbergasted, humbled and honored,” John said. “It will make me redouble my efforts to make sure this disease goes away.”
The Independent Gt