The room was packed, lawmakers from both parties were in attendance, and Sir Elton John was at center stage. He didn’t have his piano, but he did have a microphone. And the man who has been at the forefront of the activist AIDS community was as great in this hearing as he has been on any stage performing for masses of adoring fans.
“Mr Chairman, because of the actions of this Congress, the course of the AIDS epidemic was altered for all of humanity,” he began. “Because the American people had the optimism, the ingenuity and the will to make a difference the lives of millions of people halfway around the world have been saved. ”
Sir Elton came not as a partisan, not as a liberal and not as anything but a concerned human being who has dedicated the past few decades along with a major portion of his profits to combat AIDS and HIV.
He went on to describe how a lack of action now and in the future has the power to reverse all that. But he brought up a different power, a more powerful power – the U.S. Congress.
Sir Elton John demanded the Congress use it’s power to end AIDS as we know it — a power he says they have. And people in the audience who agreed with John nodded. Sounds of “Amen!” and “That’s right!” can be heard as he speaks.
In today’s political climate, one might think that what he was saying was absolute nonsense and fantasy. Republicans and Democrats working together to reduce and eradicate AIDS and HIV? Who? Where? When?
Well, the answer is during the Bush administration in large part. Yeah, really. In fact, his initiatives on AIDS research might be the one thing that saves his legacy… well, maybe not, but to give credit where it is due, Dubya was a champ on AIDS.
There is a little more to the story, though. He did get a lot of his work done with a Democratic Congress. That’s not a sleight to the former president, just a fact. The Congress was able to facilitate Bush’s sincere efforts where a Republican Congress couldn’t. Bush was also smart to have many of the initiatives he set in motion continue past his presidency.
But now we have a much different climate and an opposite majority with the GOP holding control of the Congress. And it’s no secret how many, at least on the right wing of the GOP, are just against anything Obama does, even if they voted for it before. Then throw in a “gay” issue… cue the “outraged” base… In short, the battles to get anything done, let alone more done, will be an uphill battle. Some things that helped people are expiring and attempts for Republicans to de-fund existing programs has become commonplace.
Let us hope Sir Elton John can sway enough to keep the momentum on our side, at least.
C-Span is running various sections of Sir Elton John’s testimony throughout today and this week.