WASHINGTON — Family members of the six adults killed in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December gathered at the White House on Friday as President Obama bestowed the nation’s second-highest civilian honor on their fallen relatives.
One by one, Obama read the names of the six educators receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal, saying they had no idea when they woke up on a chilly December morning of the sacrifice they would soon make for their communities.
‘‘They could have focused on their own safety, on their own well-being. But they didn’t,’’ Obama said. ‘‘They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care.’’
For all the grief-filled vigils and agonizing funerals that have marked the two months since a shooter killed the six adults and 20 first-graders at the school, Friday’s ceremony was markedly optimistic. In place of tears, there were smiles on the faces of some of the victims’ relatives, as Obama presented the medals in a memorial affirming the devotion to citizenship that he said the six exemplified.
Two of the educators honored, principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, are believed to have lunged, unarmed, at the gunman to try to stop him. Another, teacher Victoria Soto, reportedly hid children in a closet. Lauren Rousseau read to her students as a gunman invaded the school, doing her best to keep them calm. Rachel D’Avino and Anne Marie Murphy were said to have wrapped their arms around the children as chaos ensued.
Also among the 18 people honored was Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a renowned pediatrician who developed a leading behavioral test for newborns.
Another medal went to Harris Wofford, a former Pennsylvania senator who advised Martin Luther King Jr., helped form the Peace Corps program, and was a leader in higher education.
Obama credited the late Jeanne Manford, who in the 1970 created a support group that evolved into Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national organization.
Speaking Friday at Hyde Park Academy, Obama sought support for proposals, unveiled this week in his State of the Union address, to increase the federal minimum wage and to ensure that every child can attend preschool.
He also pitched plans to pair businesses with recession-battered communities to help rebuild and provide job training.
Ensuring that no child is denied the ability to go as far as his or her talents will allow means removing some of the roadblocks from early in life, Obama said
NEW YORK — Former presidential candidate Herman Cain will be getting some regular television work at Fox News Channel.
The network announced Friday that Cain, a failed Republican presidential contender in 2012, will be a network contributor. Cain, the former president and chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza from Georgia, will also contribute to the Fox Business Network.