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Obama To Honor Two Newtowners As ‘Champions Of Change’

President Barack Obama is planning to honor two Newtown residents, including the father of one of the 12/14 victims and the daughter of a 12/14 survivor, as Champions of Change.

Sarah Clements, founder and chairwoman for the Jr Newtown Action Alliance, and Mark Barden, director of advocacy for Sandy Hook Promise, are among nine honorees being recognized for taking critical steps in their communities to reduce gun violence. The ceremony is set for Thursday, April 3.

Although a minority of the Senate voted down common-sense legislation, according to a White House release, the administration is continuing to take key steps to reduce gun violence by implementing more than 23 executive actions and elevating successful local efforts. This week, the Obama Administration will highlight the work some of these local leaders have spearheaded to make their neighborhoods safer and to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama declared, “Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say ‘we are not afraid,’ and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.”

The White House created the Champions of Change program to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower, inspire and support members of their communities. 

Sarah is a senior at Newtown High School. Her mother survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

After the shooting, Sarah began using gun violence prevention advocacy to transform her painful experience into positive action. Jr NAA is the student branch of Newtown Action Alliance, and the group focuses on educating, empowering, and collaborating with other Millennials to address gun violence in every type of community, through legislative action, cultural change, and bridge building.

The group's goal for 2014 is to bring together urban, suburban, and rural youth to share stories and work together to reduce gun violence, as the issue so disproportionately effects the Millennial generation.

Sarah is also a Gun Violence Prevention Network Volunteer Lead at Generation Progress, the youth advocacy branch of the Center for American Progress, where she assists in creating a national network of young people working on gun violence prevention on high school and college campuses.

 As Director of Advocacy for Sandy Hook Promise, Mr Barden leads policy and outreach efforts for the group and frequently serves as a spokesperson for the organization. Since the tragic loss of his son Daniel on 12/14, Mr Barden has dedicated himself to bringing people together to prevent future tragedies and spare other families the pain of losing a child to gun violence. 

His journey has taken him from a Tea Party congressman’s Florida town hall to introducing President Obama in the Rose Garden to meetings with Members of Congress, governors and state legislators, media interviews and speaking to civic groups, faith groups and colleges.

An accomplished professional musician, Mr Barden still finds time to perform. He is scheduled to attend The White House event with his wife, Jackie, his son James and daughter, Natalie. 

The extended Barden family has also created a foundation, What Would Daniel Do?, to honor the extraordinary spirit of Daniel Barden.

Thursday’s event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch the event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 10 am on April 3. 

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