An immigration activist who fasted for more than three weeks, the first female CEO of General Motors and the school bookkeeper who talked down a gunman at an Atlanta-area elementary school will be among the guests joining the first lady at the State of the Union, the White House announced Tuesday.
A Puerto Rican fourth-grader who participated in the first lady’s healthy recipe challenge, a legally blind environmental activist, and the first African-American female to achieve four-rank in U.S. military history will also be in attendance.
Invitations were also extended to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a red state Democrat who has embraced ObamaCare, and Amanda Shelly, a 37-year-old Arizona physician assistant whose emergency abdominal surgery was covered just days after her health coverage went into affect, suggesting the president will devote part of his speech to touting his signature legislative accomplishment.
Other guests include a South Carolina woman saddled with nearly $90,000 in student loan debt, the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, and the Native American founder of a manufacturing and trucking consortium.
White House aides have said the president will address both college costs and public-private manufacturing partnerships during his address. In the two days following the speech, Obama will visit a steel keel outside of Pittsburgh, an engine manufacturing plant outside of Milwaukee, and a high school in Nashville.
The attendees will join previously announced guests, including survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, a fire chief from an Oklahoma town devastated by a tornado, a D.C. public school teacher, a 16-year old scientist, and Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, in watching the address from the first lady’s box.
The tradition of inviting high-profile guests to the State of the Union address dates back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan and can provide a window into the themes and policy priorities the president is likely to outline.
The first such guest was Lenny Skutnik, who dove into the Potomac River to rescue a passenger from the crash of Air Florida Flight 90.
Last year, the first lady’s guests included Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old Miami voter who waited for hours to cast her ballot during the presidential election, as well as the mother and father of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago high school student gunned down just days after performing at the president’s inauguration.