Former President Barack Obama wrote a moving tribute to five outspoken survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre for TIME magazine’s annual list of 100 influential people, released on Thursday.
The 44th president praised students Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma González and Alex Wind for demanding tougher gun control legislation following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“Seared by memories of seeing their friends murdered at a place they believed to be safe, these young leaders don’t intimidate easily,” Obama wrote. “They see the [National Rifle Association] and its allies — whether mealymouthed politicians or mendacious commentators peddling conspiracy theories — as mere shills for those who make money selling weapons of war to whoever can pay.”
“They’re as comfortable speaking truth to power as they are dismissive of platitudes and punditry,” he continued. “And they live to mobilize their peers. ... The Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency.”
The five students helped spawn the #NeverAgain movement to end gun violence and spearheaded the organization behind March For Our Lives, the massive nationwide protest calling for stricter firearm regulation held on March 24.
“Thank you @Time for this honor and an immense thank you to @BarackObama for the kind words,” Wind tweeted Thursday.
Obama, along with former first lady Michelle Obama, penned a letter to the survivors-turned-activists days before March For Our Lives, expressing support and applauding them for their “resilience, resolve and solidarity that you have all shown in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.”
“Our kids now show us what we’ve told them America is all about, even if we haven’t always believed it ourselves: that our future isn’t written for us, but by us,” Obama wrote in the TIME profile.
Check out the full list of this year’s TIME 100 here.