Guest List for President’s Final “State of the Union”
Tonight marks President Barack Obama’s final “State of the Union” address to the nation. At each one since becoming president, First Lady Michelle Obama has invited high-profile and lower-profile guests to sit with her during her husband’s speech. These guests are comprised of civilians, army personnel, and sometimes a celebrity, and are supposed to exemplify the themes and ideals within the address. This year’s guest list does not include any super well-known names, but their causes, experiences, and ideas are well-known to most Americans. The most touching and poignant guest will be an empty chair, symbolizing the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice.
But included among those who will be physically present are an advocate for the homeless, an opioid reform advocate, a Syrian refugee, a Native American STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering,and Math) proponent, the first female Army Reserve officer to graduate from the Ranger School, and several politicians, including Connecticut governor, Martin O’Malley. The youngest guest is 12-year-old Braeden Mannering, who started his own nonprofit, Brae’s Brown Bags (3B), which provides healthy food to homeless and low-income individuals in his community. Also included in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box will be LGBT activist Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark marriage equality case, which ruled same-sex couples nationwide have the Constitutional right to marry. According to The White House, “For the President’s final State of the Union address, the individuals who will be seated in the guest box tell the story of the progress we have made since the President delivered his first address seven years ago – from a terrible economic recession and two costly wars, to a revitalized and thriving economy and renewed American leadership abroad.” This “State of the Union” address also marks the first one presided over by new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI), who replaced former speaker, John Boehner, after the 2015 mid-term elections.