Subway Hero and Basketball Star Special Guests at Speech

Jan 23, 2007 6:04pm

ABC’s Karen Travers reports: The First Lady’s box at tonight’s State of the Union will include several special guests, as it does each year. This year, the guests include military personnel, educators, scientists and people involved in charity work.

Of special note, this evening are basketball star Dikembe Mutombo and New York construction worker Wesley Autrey.

Mutombo is a a 7’2” former Georgetown basketball player and current center for the Houston Rockets.

Mutombo opened a hospital in his native Democratic Republic of Congo named after his mother, who died there in 1998 because she was unable to get proper medical attention after a stroke. 

Autrey is the instant hero who jumped onto the tracks of a New York City subway station this month to save a man who had fallen from a seizure. Autrey will be joined by his two young daughters, who witnessed their father leap onto the subway tracks to save a man’s life.

Other guests the Whie House is expecting in the First Lady’s box include:

- Julie Aigner-Clark, Founder, The Baby Einstein Company; Founder, The Safe Side. Aigner-Clark is an educator, mother and entrepreneur.

- Technical Sergeant Michelle Barefield, USAF who served in Iraq from March to September 2006.  While assigned to Baghdad International Airport, Technical Sergeant Barefield survived three IED attacks.

- Pamela Battle, a homemaker, was among the first low-income parents to apply for scholarships under the D.C. School Choice Incentive Program, a federally funded voucher program, enacted in 2004. 

- Father Michael Boland, President and CEO, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Chicago

- Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Founder, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a charitable organization founded in 1982 to honor the memory of her sister, Susan, whom she lost to breast cancer in 1980.  The Race for the Cure was created the following year and is now the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world. 

- Craig Cuccia, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Reconcile New Orleans, a non-profit  organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in New Orleans, Louisiana.

- Petty Officer  First Class, Corey Firman, USN. While deployed to Iraq, he volunteered to participate in over 30 convoys and was subsequently subjected to over 180 incidents of hostile fire.  Petty Officer Firman is now serving in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy as the Nominations Yeoman for the White House and Washington D.C. Placement, where he has been nominated for the Senior Sailor of the Quarter for the Secretary of the Navy.  Petty Officer Firman has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

- Shannon Hickey, Founder, Mychal’s Messenger, a non-profit organization to further the legacy of her favorite priest – Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain for the New York Fire Department who was killed on September 11, 2001, when he was hit by debris from the World Trade Center.   Mychal’s Message began in January 2002, when Shannon was marking the 11th anniversary of her life-saving liver transplant when she was a baby.  In lieu of gifts on her birthday she asked for socks for the homeless.

- Dr. Nancy Ho, Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader of Molecular Genetics Group, Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering, Purdue University. She has studied cellulosic biomass for over 25 years, and she has received numerous honors for her work on converting all sugars from cellulosic biomass to ethanol.

- Dan Jones, Service Engineer, Software To Go, a small, St. Louis-area technology firm specializing in full-service tech solutions for small businesses. 

- Suzanne Lewis, Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park.

- Sergeant Aubrey McDade, Jr., USMC, served in Iraq from March 2003 to October 2003.  He returned for his second tour in June 2004 through February 2005.  While in Iraq, Sergeant McDade was a machine gun squad leader with the 1st Marine Division and was based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  At age 25, he is now a drill instructor with the 1st Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island.  For his heroic actions in Iraq, Sergeant McDade received the Navy Cross medal, the second highest medal to be awarded by the Department of the Navy.

- Al Meginniss, Director, Behavior Health Service Center, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

- Duncan Smith, Principal, Frankford Elementary School, a small, rural school whose student body is approximately 30 percent African American and 40 percent Hispanic; 80 percent of the students are low-income.  His school was awarded the “Dispelling the Myth” award last year by the non-partisan Education Trust for its remarkable progress in closing the achievement gap among its students.

- Boatswains Mate Nathan Thomas, Petty Officer Second Class, USCG

- Admiral Tim Ziemer, Coordinator, President’s Malaria Initiative, where he directs efforts to create and expand malaria control programs to achieve the goals of reducing malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 target nations in Africa. 

- Sergeant Tommy Rieman, United States Army.  In December 2003, he was on a reconnaissance mission in Iraq when his team came under heavy enemy fire.  From his Humvee, Sergeant Rieman returned fire – and used his body as a shield to protect his gunner.  He was shot in the chest and arm, and received shrapnel wounds to his legs – yet he refused medical attention, and stayed in the fight.  He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy’s position until their guns went silent.  For his exceptional courage, Sergeant Rieman was awarded the Silver Star.

- Ernie Allen, President and CEO, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

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