President Biden honored Sir Elton John with the National Humanities Medal Friday following a performance from the musician on the south lawn of the White House.
“It’s my great honor, and I mean this sincerely, to present the National Humanities Medal to Sir Elton John,” Biden said to a visibly shocked John and cheers from the audience.
The honor was given to the British music icon “for moving our souls with his powerful voice and one of the defining song books of all time. 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,” according to the citation.
John, who teared up as the president placed the medal around his neck, said, “I’m never flabbergasted, but I’m flabbergasted and humbled and honored by this incredible award from the United States of America.”
“America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none, but in the war against AIDS and HIV it’s even bigger,” the musician said before choking up and adding, “I’m really emotional about this.”
John had been invited to perform at the White House for a concert titled “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme” due to his advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The performer earned standing ovations after playing a number of his hits, including “Your Song,” “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.”
Among the 2,000 guests present at the concert were Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges.