"I'm so proud to be in this country. So proud to be a part of something so incredibly moving, and touching," Sir Elton, 61, said from the stage to a packed crowd at Cipriani Wall Street.
"Last week's election demonstrated to me why I fell in love with America in the first place. More importantly, it demonstrated to everybody across this planet that America is a good place now."
Citing recent reports showing significant increases in the number of new AIDS cases in America – especially among African-Americans – the entertainer went on to praise President-elect Barack Obama for including the development of a National AIDS Strategy in his vision for the country.
Calls for Strategy"I mean, after all these years, isn't it about time the United States developed a National AIDS Strategy?" said John to the appreciative crowd. In all, the event raised $2 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation
Not that the evening was entirely serious. At one point John offered not to remove his clothes onstage – if someone would donate $1 million.
During a live auction, one bidder paid $50,000 for lunch with CNN's Anderson Cooper. And after a soulful performance of "Midnight Train to Georgia," Gladys Knight invited John to join her on stage for a rarely performed duet of their '80s hit, "That's What Friends Are For."
Relying on a cheat-sheet to remember the lyrics, both delivered a rousing rendition, trading the words "keep smiling" for the sentiment of the night: "keep giving."