Elton John was moved to tears after being awarded the National Humanities Medal for his work to end Aids by the US president following a special performance at the White House.
The singer performed on the White House lawn for the president and first lady and about 2,000 “everyday history makers” on Friday night.
The event, A Night When Hope and History Rhyme, included an audience of teachers, students, nurses, LGBTQ+ advocates, military families and mental health advocates.
Organised by the History Channel and A+E Networks, John performed several of his hits, including Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, before the president, Joe Biden, and first lady, Dr Jill Biden, surprised the singer with the National Humanities Medal for his work to end Aids and assist those living with the condition through the Elton John Aids Foundation.
John said he was “flabbergasted” and felt honoured for the recognition.
“Since I founded the Foundation at my kitchen table in Atlanta 30 years ago, I made a commitment not to leave anyone behind and will continue on this mission,” he said.
“We are striving for a future where people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations and gender identities have the opportunity to live free from Aids, stigma, injustice and maltreatment – and I’m so grateful recognition like this brings us a step closer to making that a reality.”
It was the 75-year-old British songwriter’s first White House gig since he performed with Stevie Wonder at a state dinner in 1998 to honour former prime minister Sir Tony Blair.
John is currently on a farewell tour that began in July after more than 50 years of performing.