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WATCH LIVE: Obama honors recipients of Presidential Citizens Medal

“It is my distinguished honor to award these individuals the 2012 Citizens Medal for their commitment to public service,” said the president in a press release earlier this month. “Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country.”

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The Citizens Medal, which was established in 1969, recognizes American citizens who perform exemplary deeds of service for the country and fellow citizens.

The ideal nominee is a person whose work has "had a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of others," according to the White House.

Of the nearly 6,000 public nominations were submitted, 18 that were chosen, including six women that were killed in the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting, a former senator, a pediatric expert and the founders of veterans support programs among others.