The White House has partially unveiled the list of guests who will join first lady Michelle Obama in her box at the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Six names have been revealed thus far, including two survivors of the April terror attack on the Boston marathon and the first male athlete in a major American sport to come out as openly gay.
An administration preview website suggests 22 individuals are expected to join Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in the Capitol that night.
The White House says more names will be trickled out before the event, but so far the guests include:
Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman did not know each other before the tragic 117th Boston Marathon, but the two were snapped in what became one of the most iconic photos of that day: Arredondo, a runner in a white cowboy hat, helping to rush injured spectator Bauman’s wheelchair out of harm’s way when he was injured in the explosion. Bauman would lose both legs, but when he awoke in his hospital bed the following day he still mustered the strength to help identify one of the attackers. Arredondo would later tell ABC partner Fusion, “It has nothing to do with [being] a hero, it’s just a natural thing that myself and many other people have, trying to help in circumstances like that.”
Fire Chief Gary Bird “represents all of those who rallied together to help the community of Moore, Oklahoma,” the White House says, after it was devastated by a May tornado that killed 25 and tore apart the small town. Bird had held his position for less than a year before the disaster that destroyed so much, but had been a career firefighter for nearly three decades. President Obama visited Moore in the storm’s aftermath, saying the community would “come back stronger from this tragedy.”
Jason Collins became the first male athlete in any of the four major American sports to come out as openly gay while still an active player. In an interview with ABC News, Collins recalled a personal phone call with the president following his announcement. The NBA player also stated he “never set out to be the first” to come out, but ultimately decided he couldn’t wait for other players to “raise their hand.”
Joey Hudy first met President Obama at a White House children’s science fair in 2012 when, at the age of 14, he dazzled the Commander in Chief with a new weapon: a marshmallow cannon capable of launching fluffy, white projectiles more than 170 feet. Now the youngest-ever intern at Intel and a self-described, “maker,” Hudy is described by the White House as part of a growing youth community of amateur inventors.
Kathy Hollowell-Makle is the 2013 “Teacher of the Year” in the Washington, D.C., public school system. The district says the Teach for America alumni specializes in early-childhood education and has graduated 90 percent of her students with early literacy at “proficient or advanced levels.” Hollowell-Makle has also participated in national education events, including a round table discussion with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Since the Ronald Reagan White House, presidents have made a tradition of bringing guests to sit with the first lady in the House chamber. The president often mentions their names in the speech to represent human faces on the policies he wishes to pursue in the next year. But while science, education, and a focus on the gay community have long been tropes of Obama, White House officials say this year’s speech will also carry the theme of circumventing a gridlocked Congress.