WASHINGTON — Elton John is still standing, but just barely, after he was surprised with a National Humanities Medal presented to him by President Joe Biden on Friday after a performance by the music icon at the White House’s South Lawn.
John is on a long farewell tour in the U.S., and his appearance at the White House was part of a bigger celebration to honor people the White House called “everyday history makers,” The New York Times reported. That included teachers, nurses, students, activists, mental health workers and first responders, according to the newspaper. Also in attendance were former first lady Laura Bush, civil rights activist Ruby Bridges and education activist Malala Yousafzai, The Associated Press reported.
John, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, received seven standing ovations as he played some of his biggest hits, Variety reported. Hits by the “Rocket Man” included “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Your Song” and “I’m Still Standing.”
John spoke about his work since creating the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1991 and said he wanted to eliminate the disease by 2030, the entertainment outlet reported.
“We can do it, and we will,” John told the audience.
Also in attendance at the concert was Jeanne White-Ginder, an AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, who died from AIDS-related complications in 1990, the AP reported.
The medal, according to the Friday presentation, was to honor John “for moving our souls with his powerful voice and one of the defining song books of all time,” CNN reported
“An enduring icon and advocate with absolute courage, who found purpose to challenge convention, shatter stigma and advance the simple truth -- that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” the presentation continued.
John was at the White House to perform in a concert titled “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” in collaboration with A&E Networks and The History Channel, Variety reported.
As the audience cheered, Biden stepped up to the singer and presented the award.
“Tonight is my great honor, and I mean this sincerely, to present the National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John,” Biden said.
John was visibly moved.
“America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none, but in the war against AIDS and HIV it’s even bigger,” John said. “I’m really emotional about this.”
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