Here are the guests invited to Biden’s State of the Union address
President Biden is set to deliver his second State of the Union address after a year marked by both triumphs and challenges.
The president has consistently struggled with poor approval ratings and high inflation numbers in the last year, but also saw a higher number of Democrat victories than expected in the 2022 midterm elections and a number of legislative wins in the past Congress.
Biden is expected to address the war in Ukraine, as well as his economic agenda and the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are the guests that lawmakers and the White House have invited to attend the State of the Union.
Tyre Nichols’s parents
The parents of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old man who died after being beaten by Memphis police during a traffic stop, will be in attendance, sitting in the first lady’s box.
The family accepted the invitation of Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, to attend the speech, an official for the caucus confirmed on Twitter.
Nichols’s death has renewed calls for policing reform legislation ahead of Biden’s Feb. 7 address.
Bono is the lead singer of the rock band U2, and he has spent decades as an activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS and global poverty. He has been invited by first lady Jill Biden.
Paul Pelosi, the husband of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who suffered a violent attack in the couple’s California home in October, will sit in First Lady Jill Biden’s box for the State of the Union.
Paul Pelosi suffered severe injuries from the attack in which he was beaten with a hammer. He received surgery for a skull fracture and treatment for injuries to his arm and hand.
Brandon Tsay, who disarmed suspected killer in Monterey Park shooting
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) invited Brandon Tsay to be her State of the Union guest, an offer of honor after he disarmed the man suspected of killing at least 11 during a shooting in Monterey Park, Calif.
Tsay has received several state honors and recognition at a Lunar New Year celebration in Alhambra, California, according to CBS News and other outlets that covered the festivities.
But Chu said that shortly after she extended her invitation, President Biden called Tsay to do the same.
“Only an hour after I talked to [Tsay], President Biden himself asked him to be his guest at the State of the Union. … Brandon, how could you turn me down?” Chu said on CBS News.
‘Good Samaritan’ who helped Rep. Greg Steube
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) announced that the “Good Samaritan” who called 911 after he fell from his roof in January will be attending the State of the Union while the lawmaker continues to recover at home.
Steube sustained multiple injuries after falling about 25 feet off a ladder while cutting tree limbs on his property in Sarasota, Fla., on Jan. 18. He spent the night in the ICU after being treated for serious, but nonlife-threatening, injuries.
New York Montgomery County sheriff
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) announced that her State of the Union guest would be Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffrey T. Smith of Fort Plain, New York.
In a statement announcing her guest, Stefanik emphasized the issue of crime and criticized President Joe Biden’s policies regarding law enforcement.
“Sheriff Smith and countless other members of law enforcement are on the frontlines every day protecting our communities and fighting against the crises caused by Joe Biden’s failed policies,” Stefanik said in the statement. “The American people deserve a government with the same dedication to public safety, and House Republicans are leading the charge to hold the Biden Administration accountable for its crises and deliver on our commitment to create a nation that is safe.”
Michael Brown Sr., father of teenager fatally shot by police
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) invited Michael Brown Sr., the father of a teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Missouri in 2014, to the State of the Union, Politico Playbook reported on Monday.
Brown’s son, Michael Brown, was a Black teenager who was fatally shot in an encounter with police in Ferguson, Mo., an incident that sparked national outrage and protests across the country.
“The police killing of Michael Brown in 2014 is what propelled me and many others into lives dedicated to building a world where Mike would still be here with us — a world where his life could not be taken from him,” Bush told Playbook, before mentioning the recent police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn. “A world where Tyre Nichols and the thousands of other Black people killed by police could live long, healthy lives full of joy.”
Massachusetts nursing student Eugénie Ouedraogo
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has invited Eugénie Ouedraogo, a nursing student at UMass Dartmouth and mother of three, to highlight the national issue of affordable child care.
In an article with the Taunton Daily Gazette, Ouedraogo, originally from Burkina Faso, cited child care programs as contributing to her successful educational pursuits.
“We both know what it’s like to struggle to find child care while pursuing an education,” Warren said of her guest in a tweet. “I’m fighting to ensure that every family can find affordable, quality child care.”
Parents of school shootings victims
Two Democratic House freshmen have invited parents of two victims of school shootings as their guests.
Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) and Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) will host Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah García was one of the 19 Uvalde victims in 2022, and Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquín Oliver, one of 17 victims of the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla., respectively.
“We’re taking two fathers who have lost children at school, and we’re bringing them to the Capitol to hear from the President and we’re going to talk about ending gun violence and what we think needs to happen,” Frost, currently the youngest member of Congress, told The Hill.
Abortion activist Kate Dineen
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced he would be accompanied to the State of the Union by abortion activist Kate Dineen, who helped influence the state’s 2022 abortion shield law, reports Mass Live.
Massachusetts law at the time forced Dineen to travel 500 miles to Maryland to get an abortion costing more than $10,000 after her son “suffered a catastrophic stroke in utero.”
“No one should ever have to go through the anguish and uncertainty Kate and her husband went through to find care,” Markey reportedly said.
Former NBA star Enes Freedom
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday he will bring former professional basketball player Enes Freedom, who last played for the Boston Celtics, to the State of the Union.
“In light of everything too with what’s happening in China, here’s a man who stood up for freedom, lost his right to continue to play basketball, but he continues to fight for freedom,” McCarthy said of his guest.
Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Mark A. Hurley
Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), who is skipping Biden’s address, is giving her ticket to Retired Illinois Air Force Colonel (Ret.) Mark A. Hurley, who left the military over Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine.
“Biden used the COVID vaccine mandate as a political purge to force the best and the brightest out of our military, and Biden has still failed to provide accountability for his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan more than two years ago,” Miller said.
Hurley commended Miller and McCarthy for their efforts to end the COVID-19 military vaccine requirement, saying, “These legislative leaders continued the battle.”
Deanna Branch, a Milwaukee woman who has advocated for awareness about toxic lead pipes after her son suffered from lead poisoning as a result of unsafe drinking water, will attend the State of the Union as a guest of the White House. Branch met with Vice President Harris last year about her family’s experience and the issue of lead exposure.
Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the U.S.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has invited Roya Rahmani to be his guest at the State of the Union to highlight the Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan and the event’s impact on Afghan women. Rahmani, the first female ambassador from Afghanistan to the U.S., served in the role from 2018 to 2021.
“I hope my invitation and Ambassador Rahamani’s presence will send a signal to the women of Afghanistan that they have not been forgotten,” McCaul said in a statement. “I am going to fight every day to hold those responsible accountable for what happened, and to help Afghan women in any way I can.”
9/11 ground zero rescue worker
Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) will bring a former firefighter who assisted with rescue operations in New York on 9/11 as his guest to the State of the Union.
Santos reportedly said on the House floor on Monday that he invited Michael Weinstock, a Democrat who once ran for the House seat Santos holds, to join him for the address.
Weinstock told The New York Times that he accepted Santos’ invitation because he has a neurological condition connected to his service as an emergency worker and he wants to raise awareness for those in similar situations.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to stay focused enough on the issue of 9/11 responders receiving the health care that they need without being sullied by George Santos,” Weinstock said.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) has invited professional basketball player Sterling Brown to be her State of the Union guest to highlight the police’s treatment of Black Americans. Brown was tased by police in 2018 while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“What happened to Sterling Brown is part of a tragic history of police brutality in America and the city of Milwaukee,” Moore said in a statement. “I remember the 2014 killing of Dontre Hamilton, who lost his life on a park bench, and when Ernest Lacy was killed in 1981. As a mother of two Black sons, my heart feels for all the families who are now grieving, it is a fear I carry with me.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will bring Zeneta Everhart, whose son was injured in the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., last year, as one of his guests to the State of the Union. In the months since the shooting, Everhart has advocated for increased education focusing on racism and Black history and has launched a book club with her son to spark conversations around the issues.
Everhart testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in June last year during a hearing on gun violence.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced that Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) will be his guest at the State of the Union. Cox was elected to the governorship in 2021.
“The state of the union and the state of Utah are inextricably linked. In the months and years ahead, Utah will face a host of challenges requiring a strong relationship between our state and federal governments,” Lee said in a statement. “I’m honored to be joined by Gov. Cox for this year’s State of the Union address. Gov. Cox is a lifelong Utahn whose grasp of the issues and connection to the state place him in a unique position to help navigate Utah through the challenges ahead.”
Families that have lost loved ones at hands of police
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have invited families who have lost loved ones due to police violence to the State of the Union.
Family members of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Ronald Greene and others will join members of the caucus, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), on Capitol Hill. Tyre Nichols’ parents will also be in attendance as guests of Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), the chairman of the CBC.
The caucus recently met with Biden to discuss the need for police reform after harrowing video footage showed Nichols beaten by five police officers in Memphis.
Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., will attend the State of the Union as a guest of First Lady Jill Biden. This will mark the second year in a row that Markarova has attended the State of the Union as a guest of the first lady.
The ambassador’s presence reflects the Biden’s administration continued focus on the war in Ukraine nearly a year after Russia invaded the country. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted Tuesday that Biden will address the war in Ukraine in his remarks.
Amanda and Josh Zurawski
Texas couple Amanda and Josh Zurawski will attend the State of the Union as guests of First Lady Jill Biden, a move that highlights the Biden administration’s stance on women’s reproductive health in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.
Zurawski’s water broke when she was 18 weeks pregnant and was unable to receive medical assistance because her doctors were concerned that the treatment she required would violate Texas’ abortion law. Zurawski developed sepsis and nearly died due to the delay in acquiring the necessary treatment, according to the White House.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that she will bring former Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell as her guest to the State of the Union. Gonell, who received a Congressional Gold Medal for his actions during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, has been vocal about the role former President Trump played in the riot and the physical and mental trauma he endured from it.
“Sergeant Gonell is an American hero,” Pelosi said in a statement. “On January 6, 2021, he put his own life on the line as he courageously protected the Capitol, the Congress and the Constitution from a deadly siege. After enduring unimaginable brutality and trauma, he has continued his selfless service – speaking out to ensure that we all remember the truth of the insurrection.”
Updated Tuesday at 4:42 p.m.
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