By Amie Parnes - 02/15/13 05:43 PM EST
President Obama on Friday awarded the nation's second-highest civilian honor to the six educators killed in the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The six victims were posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in an emotional White House ceremony attended by family members of the teachers killed by a lone gunman.
Obama didn't mention gun control at the ceremony, but is expected to address the subject Friday afternoon in Chicago, a city with a rising number of gun fatalities.
An emotional Obama wiped away tears, calling the six educators “courageous” and saying they gave up their lives to protect children in their care at the school.
“They had no idea evil was about to strike,” Obama said. “And when it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves. They could have focused on their own safety, on their own well being. But they didn't. They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care. They gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us.
“And that's what we are honor today,” Obama added. “The courageous heart, the selfless spirit, the inspiring actions of extraordinary Americans, extraordinary citizens.”
A White House aide said Obama met privately Friday with the victim's families and other awardees.
The president highlighted gun control as part of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, saying that little else on his agenda matters "if we don't come together to protect our most precious resource — our children."
He urged Congress to put forth gun control proposals, adding, "If you want to vote no, that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote."
Obama has called for stiffer background checks and bans on certain semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines as part of his proposals.
This story was updated at 1:10 p.m.