Elton John has been awarded the National Humanities Medal by US president Joe Biden.

The British icon was awarded the medal at the White House as part of an event titled ‘A Night When Hope and History Rhyme’ – which celebrated teachers, students, frontline workers, and LGBTQIA advocates. Over 2,000 people were in attendance, with notable attendees including former first lady Laura Bush, education activist Malala Yousafzai as well as AIDS activist Jeanne White-Ginder.

At the event, John played a slew of his hits, including ‘Your Song,’ ‘Rocket Man’ ‘Tiny Dancer’, and ‘Crocodile Rock’, a song personally important to President Biden. At the end of the event, the singer was awarded the medal for his musical career, as well as his long-time activism for HIV/AIDS efforts. Upon receiving the medal, John was visibly surprised and touched, breaking into tears.

In a statement read at the ceremony, John was credited “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.”

Watch John receive the medal below:

“I’m never flabbergasted, but I’m flabbergasted, and humbled, and honoured by this incredible award from the United States of America,” John remarked at the ceremony. “I will treasure this so much, and will make me double my effort to make sure this disease goes away. America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none, but in the war against AIDS and HIV is even bigger.”

The event was a detour from John’s current Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. John’s last visit to the White House was in 1998, when Bill Clinton welcomed Tony Blair in a state dinner.

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