Elton John left ‘flabbergasted’ as Joe Biden surprises him with medal for work fighting AIDS
An emotional Sir Elton John has been left “flabbergasted” after US president Joe Biden surprised him with the National Humanities Medal for his work fighting HIV/AIDS.
Following a performance at the White House on Friday (23 September), Elton, 75, was presented the award for his humanitarian work as well as “for moving our souls with his powerful voice”, CNN reported.
The “enduring icon” was praised for allowing people “to be themselves” and “to be treated with dignity”.
President Biden said: “We’re joined by so many people that… he’s [Elton] set free to be themselves, to be treated with dignity and respect they deserve.
“Families and advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS. A fight that he has led with sheer will, a fight for those lives lost and those lives we can save. Leaders standing up for equality of all people, no matter who you are, or who you love.
“On behalf of the American people, thank you – and I sincerely mean this – for moving the soul of our nation.”
As he was presented with the medal, Elton said he would “treasure” it, adding: “I’m never flabbergasted, but I’m flabbergasted.”
Elton performed hits including “Your Song”, “Rocket Man”, and “Tiny Dancer” at the White House concert, as well as Biden’s favourite “Crocodile Rock”, which the president reportedly used to sing to his children when they were young.
The singer also praised former president George W Bush for his “astonishing” work on the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which helped to “accelerate” the care for HIV/AIDs patients when it was started in 2003.
“I want to say to the first lady, president Bush accelerated the whole thing with his PEPFAR bill. It was the most incredible thing,” Elton said, addressing former first lady Laura Bush.
In 2020, Elton announced he would be launching a $1 million emergency fund for HIV patients after explaining how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting care for HIV patients across the world.
The Elton John AIDS Foundation pledged £815,000 ($1 million) towards HIV medicines, testing and preventive treatment in marginalised communities, so nobody would be “left behind” during the pandemic.
He said in a video: “For almost 30 years, my foundation has prioritised the most vulnerable people… to end the AIDS epidemic, and we’re committed to this during the COVID-19 crisis too.
“Distributing medicines, testing and preventive treatment is not as simple as it was a few weeks ago.
“So our new COVID-19 emergency fund will help frontline partners to prepare for and respond to the pandemic and its effects on HIV prevention and care for the most marginalised communities.
“We are with you, we are thinking of you, and we will not leave anyone behind.”
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