Sandy Hook Teachers to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Sandy Hook Teachers to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Campaign leader Sabato Trent has dedicated the last 44 years of his life learning the discipline of Tae Kwon Do. Throughout his career, he’s met highly trained martial artists that have inspired him to be a better person and, above all, be brave. But in December of last year, heroism was redefined for Sabato when he learned of the tragic deaths of six teachers in Newtown, CT who gave their lives while protecting children at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Those people, he said, were real heroes, including a 27-year-old teacher named Victoria Soto.

Last month, Sabato created a campaign on Causes.com asking that the White House pay tribute to Victoria Soto with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Close to 30,000 people signed and, last week, the White House announced plans to honor the six teachers with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, on February 15, 2013.

Sabato reached out to us this week and told us how he first heard Victoria Soto’s story. “I heard about [Victoria Soto's] story, and I wrote an update on my Facebook page. One of my black-belt students commented and said she was a real hero. It made me think, ‘Could I have done what she did?’” Sabato logged on to Causes and searched for an action to support. “I didn’t find anything, so I decided to start a petition.”

Sabato had never created a petition, but he felt a tremendous responsibility to do something. Heroism, for him, is something he’d witnessed firsthand throughout his time in the military; the association between a hero and a soldier were bound tightly. Yet it was the photo of a small town teacher, along with five colleagues, that shook Sabato at his core.

Sabato told us he wanted to start specifically with Victoria Soto’s cause because he hoped to build momentum and eventually honor every teacher that died on December 14. Initially, Sabato only saw a trickle of support. Then, over the course of a few days, more than 10,000 people from around the world had voiced their support, which culminated into 30,000 people signing the petition.

Last week, Sabato learned through his local newspaper that the White House will honor the fallen heroes of Sandy Hook by postumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest distinction for civilians in the United States. “Heroic actions, to me, are extreme bravery without thinking about yourself, especially when it’s someone that isn’t trained. The thing that caught my attention about [Victoria] is that I have my own children, and to do something for children that aren’t yours, to me, that’s the biggest sacrifice. And there’s nothing more heroic.”

It’s our mission to help people share what they are passionate about and create real-world change. Thanks for making Causes part of your passion, Sabato.