“I’m never flabbergasted, but I’m flabbergasted,” a visibly moved John said, thanking the President and saying that he will “treasure” the honor.
“As Jill just mentioned, we’re joined by so many people that … he’s 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,” the President said.
Approximately 2,000 guests were invited to the event and attendees included high-profile guests and government officials such as civil rights advocate Ruby Bridges, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, as well as teachers, nurses, LGBTQ advocates and military families, who the White House dubbed “everyday history-makers.”
“I want to say to the first lady, President Bush accelerated the whole thing with his PEPFAR bill. It was the most incredible thing,” John said, asking Laura Bush to give her husband a hug on his behalf.
The fight to end the HIV epidemic, John said, is one of the few truly bipartisan issues in the US, adding: “I just wish America could be more bipartisan on everything.”
The night had moments of levity, such as when John lightened the mood as he took the stage, joking, “I don’t know what to say. What a dump,” drawing laughs from attendees. And it also drew emotion, including when Biden could have been seen wiping tears as John sang, “Crocodile Rock.”
Biden, who noted his family “like so many Americans” loves John’s music, ended the program with thanks.
“On behalf of the American people, thank you — and I sincerely mean this — for moving the soul of our nation,” he told John.