Ryan invites 'poverty fighters' to State of the Union

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Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanDHS urges states to beef up election security DHS chief: 21 states sought help over election hacking concerns Incomes are rising, but don't trust GOP to make it a trend MORE (R-Wis.) is inviting a group of “front-line poverty fighters” as guests to Tuesday’s State of the Union address in order to keep the GOP’s anti-poverty efforts in the spotlight.

The special guests, who will sit in the Speaker’s box, aren't celebrities or household names.

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Instead they include a Catholic nun from Little Sisters of the Poor; a Wisconsin pastor and local school board president who has launched programs to combat poverty and drug addiction; and a former gang leader from Dallas who helps young people escape gangs.

“The answer to poverty isn’t the money in Washington,” Ryan said in a statement. “The answer to poverty is entrepreneurs and innovators like these who are actually making a difference, community by community.”

The address will come just days after Ryan co-hosted an anti-poverty summit in Columbia, S.C., that was attended by six GOP presidential candidates. The new Speaker, just a couple months on the job, has said the GOP needs to focus on issues like poverty and upward mobility to expand the party’s reach in 2016.

Ryan’s guests are:

The Rev. Melvin Hargrove, president of the Racine, Wis., school district, who is also the founder and senior pastor of Zoe Outreach Ministries, where he has created programs to combat poverty and drug addiction.

Bishop Shirley Holloway, founder of House of Help City of Hope, in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit helps more than 40,000 people dealing with addiction and homelessness.

Pastor Omar Jahwar, founder of Vision Regeneration in Dallas. As the first gang specialist hired in Texas state prisons, Jahwar leads an organization that provides gang prevention, counseling and mentoring services to 17 Dallas public schools.

Antong Lucky, Founder of We Make Real Music Inc. in Dallas. A former leader of the Bloods gang in Dallas, Lucky created a program while still in prison to help young people get out of gangs. He later launched a recording studio to combat the glamorization of violence in music.

Robert Woodson, founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, in Washington, D.C. Woodson led Ryan on a “listening and learning” tour with faith-based neighborhood healers around the country.

Joanna Wynn, founder of Walkin’ In My Shoes Inc. of Kenosha, Wis. Once jobless and homeless, she leads a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people break the cycle of poverty.

Other Ryan guests are Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, the Mother Provincial of Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as Sister Constance Veit. Both are challenging ObamaCare’s birth control mandate, a case the Supreme Court is expected to hear this spring.

Logan Barritt, a four-year-old from Milton, Wis., asked his mother if he could use change from his piggy bank to send care packages to servicemembers stationed overseas. Logan contributed $1.90 and more than $1,300 was raised by the community because of his effort.

Ryan, who succeeded Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in late October, will sit behind President Obama for the first time during Tuesday night’s address. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Ryan said his wife told him it would be tough for him to keep a straight face.

“She said I’m not a real poker-face guy. I grimace, I wince, I smile,” Ryan joked. “I need to get the whole poker-face thing down. I need to be real stoic.”