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Obama recognizes Newtown victims with Presidential Citizens Medal

Rachel Davino, Lauren Rousseau and Victoria Soto were teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on the day of the shooting in December.

Dawn Hochsprung was the school principal. Anne Marie Murphy was a teacher’s aide. Mary Sherlach was the school psychologist.

All six were among those killed by alleged gunman Adam Lanza on Dec. 14, 2012. And all six were among the 18 Americans honored by President Obama on Friday with the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. The award is the country’s second-highest civilian honor.

“A special note to the families who are here from Sandy Hook; we are so blessed to be with you,” Obama said as he recognized the award recipients at the White House Friday morning. “I have gotten to know many of you through the course of some very difficult weeks. Your courage and love for each other and your communities shines through every single day.”

Also among this year’s recipients are several who hail from the Washington, D.C., area.

Maria Gomez is the founder of Mary’s Center, a nonprofit providing health care and other services to low-income immigrant families in the District. Janice Jackson is the director of a Baltimore nonprofit named WEAN, or Women Embracing Abilities Now, which provides mentoring and other services for women with disabilities.

Former Olympian Billy Mills of Alexandria, Va., co-founded Running Strong for American Indian Youth, a group aimed at helping Native American communities. Terry Shima of Gaithersburg, Md., is a Japanese American World War II veteran who was among the 2011 recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal and who served as executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association.

And Harris Wofford is the former Democratic senator from Pennsylvania who played a key role in the Civil Rights movement and in the creation of the Peace Corps; Wofford also introduced Obama when the then-presidential candidate delivered his March 2008 speech on race in Philadelphia.

“We’ve all got busy lives,” Obama said Friday before recognizing the recipients one by one. “We’ve got bills to pay, kids to carpool, errands to get done. And in the midst of all the running around it would be easy and even understandable for folks to just focus on themselves.”

He added: “That’s not who we are. That’s not what we do. That’s not what built this country. In this country, we look out for one another. We get each other's backs, especially in times of hardship or challenge.”

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