Last evening, Elton celebrated the 25th anniversary of his AIDS foundation with a gala in New York City, raising about $4.4 million and telling the audience that they would end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Elton's efforts to raise awareness and fight against AIDS were lauded by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and singer Aretha Franklin, who closed the event with a collection of songs. Other guests included Bernie Taupin; Clive Davis; Valentino; Ethan Hawke; Billie Jean King; Sheryl Crow; Sting; Billy Joel; and Glenn Close.
The former Reg Dwight grew teary-eyed onstage after Jeanne White — the mother of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who became the poster child for HIV awareness during the 1980s AIDS crisis — spoke passionately about how John visited her son while he was sick and helped her family financially. She called Elton her “guardian angel.”
The pop performer said at the time he visited Ryan, he “hated himself” and that the White family helped him change for the better.
On Monday afternoon, Elton was awarded the Harvard Foundation's Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award in a ceremony at Sanders Theatre. This also included a performance by the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College, four standing ovations, and a heartfelt speech by the guest of honor about the transformative power of kindness.
“I’ve seen the power of the human spirit translated into compassion and extraordinary global progress. This has been the most important lesson of my life. Nothing is more profound or more powerful than recognizing our common humanity,” the 70-year-old remarked.
He was recognised for his philanthropic work on a range of causes, above all his longtime efforts “to fund and raise awareness about the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and to advocate for the rights of all people affected by the AIDS epidemic,” said Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, who introduced the ceremony and awarded Elton the honour.