Jan. 31, 2006 -- Guests for First Lady Laura Bush's box at the State of the Union:
Fawzia Koofi, second deputy speaker, Wolesi Jirga (Badakhshan, Afghanistan)
Koofi, 30, is a widowed, single mother of two young children who was elected second deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly. She was elected Sept. 18, 2005, from Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan.
Koofi's father was a member of Afghanistan's last democratically elected parliament more than 30 years ago, but he was killed when she was young. After attending universities in Kabul and Pakistan, ultimately receiving a master's degree in business and management from Preston University in Pakistan, Koofi returned to Badakhshan.
Before the fall of the Taliban, she managed an orphanage for a Norwegian non-governmental organization. Throughout her career, she has been an advocate for children's and women's rights, working for UNICEF as a child protection officer from 2002 through 2004.
Sayed Hamed Gailani, first deputy speaker, Meshrano Jirga (Kabul, Afghanistan)
Gailani, 51, comes from a prominent family whose reputation as religious leaders in Afghanistan goes back centuries. His father is the Honorable Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani. In December 2005, Gailani was appointed by President Hami Karzai to serve as a member of the 102-seat Meshrano Jirga, which is the upper house of the Afghan National Assembly. Shortly after the inauguration of the Afghan Parliament on Dec. 19, 2005, Gailani was elected by his peers to serve as the first deputy speaker of the Meshrano Jirga.
Rebecca Garang de Mabior, minister of roads and transport, government of South Sudan; wife of the late Dr. John Garang (Juba, Sudan)
Garang was born in 1956 in Panyagor, in southeastern Jonglei State. She is a member of the Bor subgroup of the Dinka tribe, the south's largest ethnic group. She has several children, including two sons who were born in the United States while she accompanied her husband to the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Ga. (1974-75), and then to graduate studies at Iowa State University (1976-81).
She traveled widely with her husband and was active on behalf of an NGO she headed, Widows, Orphans, and the Disabled Rehabilitation of the New Sudan. In addition to her native Dinka, Garang speaks fluent English and some Arabic.
Clarence W. "Bud" Clay Jr., father of fallen Marine (Pensacola, Fla.)
Bud Clay's son, Staff Sgt. Dan Clay, 27, was killed on Dec. 1, 2005, in Fallujah. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, of Twentynine Palms, Calif., attached to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. Staff Sergeant Clay was a member of the Junior ROTC program and enlisted shortly after his high school graduation in 1996. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Sara Jo Clay, mother of fallen Marine (Pensacola, Fla.)
Sara Jo Clay is the mother of Staff Sgt. Clay and the wife of Bud Clay.
Lisa Clay, wife of Fallen Marine (Aurora, Ohio)
Lisa Clay is the wife of Staff Sgt Clay.
Technical Sgt. Jamie Dana and Rex, USAF (Smethport, Pa.)
Dana joined the Air Force in 1998 and is stationed at Peterson Air Force Base outside of Colorado Springs, Colo. Her dog, Rex, is a 5-year-old German shepherd former working military dog.
Dana and Rex trained together for three years before deploying as a team first to Pakistan and then to Iraq. While in Iraq, their assignments included supporting Army personnel by clearing vehicles at checkpoints and searching buildings for booby traps and explosives.
On June 25, 2005, the pair was riding in a Humvee when a roadside bomb exploded, wounding Dana. Later, as she recovered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she sought to adopt Rex. A law prohibited the adoption of working dogs before the end of their useful lives, but this prohibition was lifted as a result of the Defense Appropriations Bill that the president signed into law on Dec. 30, 2005, and the Air Force granted her permission to adopt Rex.
Sgt. Wasim Khan, USA (New York, N.Y.)
Born and raised in Pakistan, Khan and his family moved to the United States in 1997. He entered the U.S. Army in 1998 and subsequently deployed with the 2/3 Field Artillery Battalion to Iraq. He was wounded during an RPG attack and is receiving treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Khan's awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation, Army Achievement (6), Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and the Air Assault Badge. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics and speaks five languages.
Commander Kimberly Evans, USN (Mason, Ohio)
Evans has served in the U.S. Navy since 1988. She served seven-and-a-half months commanding a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan in 2004-2005, becoming the first female Navy officer to command such a team. She oversaw 80 U.S. Army soldiers and 90 Afghans and directed operations in a physically demanding environment that spanned three provinces in western Afghanistan. Commander Evans' awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal. She and her husband, Michael, have two sons, 15 and 10.
Second Class Aviation Survival Technician Joel Sayers, USCG (Dublin, Va.)
Sayers has served in the U.S. Coast Guard since 1994. He is credited with heroic efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, organizing the rescue of 167 people in New Orleans. In one instance, AST2 Sayers descended from a helicopter to rescue a woman from a rooftop and subsequently returned to the roof with an ax to free her physically handicapped husband who was trapped in the attic. AST2 Sayers is stationed at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala.
Sgt. Nicholas "Nick" Graff, USMC (Webster Groves, Mo.)
Graff served in Iraq as a Mobile Electronic Warfare Support System Vehicle Commander during Operations Al Fajr and Matador and various other Operation Iraqi Freedom missions. He is a highly proficient Arabic linguist and has applied his linguistic skills, operational knowledge and combat experience to developing a comprehensive training package for the 2nd Radio Battalion Signals Intelligence Support Detachments.
While serving in Iraq, he suffered injuries during Operation Al Fajr in Fallujah. He was awarded a Purple Heart and volunteered to return to Iraq after his recovery. Presently, he is stationed at Camp Lejeune conducting training and skill development for his battalion.
Gary Slutkin, M.D., executive director, The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention (Chicago, Ill.)
Slutkin is the executive director of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and professor of epidemiology and international health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He founded CeaseFire Chicago, a strategic public health initiative that organizes the collaboration of law enforcement, residents, clergy, medical professionals and youth to take the lead in developing comprehensive strategic plans for reducing violence.
Slutkin was a featured speaker at the 2005 White House Conference on Helping America's Youth and believes that community mobilization, outreach, involvement by faith-based leaders, participation by those who work in criminal justice and public education are all key components to stopping violent crime on our streets and encouraging positive outcomes, particularly for our youth.
Alba Esparza, Student (Clint, Texas)
Esparza, 20, is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin. She began her college career studying engineering and architecture, but she has since become a math major in the UTeach Program at the University. Esparza attended Clint High School, where she took Advanced Placement (AP) government, economics, English and calculus classes. She feels strongly that her AP classes prepared her well for her college courses. Upon graduation, she intends to teach middle school math.
Pernessa C. Seele, founder and CEO, The Balm in Gilead, Inc. (Yonkers, N.Y.)
Seele founded The Balm in Gilead in 1989. After working for years in medical research, including at Rockefeller University in New York, she decided to get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and founded her organization to educate people in New York, especially the heavily affected African-American community, about the devastating disease.
The Balm in Gilead has since grown and now works to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS throughout the nation and around the world. It has partnered with faith communities in Africa to develop HIV/AIDS education and support networks. Domestically, The Balm in Gilead has a faith-based HIV/AIDS National Training and Technical Assistance Center that enhances the ability of black churches to respond to domestic HIV/AIDS.
Seele is the recipient of numerous congressional citations, honors and awards for her success in mobilizing the leadership of faith communities to acknowledge and combat the devastation of AIDS.
Jason Kamras, 2005 Teacher of the Year (Washington, D.C.)
Kamras received the 2005 National Teacher of the Year award from President Bush. He is a math teacher at John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington, D.C. After receiving degrees from Princeton and Harvard, Kamras began his teaching career through the Teach for America program. He successfully doubled the instructional time allotted for math and redesigned the math curriculum in his classes at Sousa to better prepare students to use technology and apply math skills in a real-world context.
Kamras' students have met the school district's Adequate Yearly Progress target for math each year since No Child Left Behind went into effect, and he is now working to expand the program to the entire school.
Jeff Lyng, student project manager, 2005 Solar Decathlon Winning Team (Golden, Colo.)
Lyng, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, led the winning team at the 2005 Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a unique educational project for college-level architects and engineers to highlight the importance of clean energy and renewable energy technologies.
Eighteen schools competed in the 2005 contest. Each team had three-and-a-half months to raise about $500,000 to design and build an 800-square-foot house that was completely solar-powered. Lyng, who helped found the University of Colorado Renewable Energy Club, serves on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Alliance for a Sustainable Future. He is pursuing his master's in civil engineering in the building systems program at the University of Colorado and will graduate in May 2006.
Dr. Deborah "Debbie" Jin, physicist, National Institute of Standards and Technology; JILA Fellow; and associate professor adjoint, physics department, University of Colorado (Boulder, Colo.)
Jin created a new quantum gas in 1999 that was one of the top scientific advances of the year. Jin received the MacArthur Award in 2003, and in 2000, she received the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers -- the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government in this field. Jin graduated from Princeton in 1990 and received her doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago in 1995.
Ja'Detrus Hamilton, USA Freedom Corps volunteer (Leakesville, Miss.)
Hamilton, 16, and his family left their mobile home and found shelter in a local church during Hurricane Katrina. Their home suffered minimal damage, but the experience encouraged him to help others in the Gulf Coast whose lives were devastated by the storm.
As a member of Youth Engaged in Service (YES!), a program that helps high school students serve their schools and communities, Hamilton collected and delivered school supplies and backpacks to affected elementary school students, helped a family begin repairs on their damaged home and interviewed Gulf Coast residents to document their stories of hope and courage. He continues to lead other youth volunteers in rebuilding and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast area.
Hamilton is in 11th grade at Green County High School in Leakesville, Miss. Mr. Hamilton is a recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award.
Teri Shamlian, USA Freedom Corps volunteer (Houston, Texas)
Shamlian has devoted herself to volunteering full-time as a member of the Harris County Citizen Corps. She has volunteered in a myriad of roles since 2004 and has logged more 750 hours of service. In the two weeks immediately following Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Shamlian devoted 113 hours to relief efforts.
She was among the first volunteers to report to the Astrodome in Houston when the request for volunteers went out. As busloads of people arrived, she set up cots, helped people come in, registered their names, helped to reunite separated family members, and provided food and clothing to those in need. She continues to volunteer through Citizen Corps, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center and other organizations. Shamlian is a recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award.
James "Jim" Kelly, CEO, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (Mandeville, La.)
Kelly has been the CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2002. Catholic Charities aims to reduce poverty, support families and empower communities. Kelly directs the organization's response to the Gulf Coast disasters.
Since the hurricanes, Catholic Charities has helped to evacuate people, distribute more than 40 million pounds of food and rebuild devastated homes and communities. The organization has mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to participate in Operation Helping Hands, a project to help the neediest homeowners restore their homes and clean up their neighborhoods. Catholic Charities runs seven community centers that offer case management and assistance with personal recovery plans for people impacted by the disasters.
Mayor Anthony Williams, District of Columbia
The Honorable Claude A. Allen, assistant to the president for domestic policy
The Honorable Candida Wolff, assistant to the president for legislative affairs
The Honorable Anita McBride, deputy assistant to the president and chief of staff to the first lady # #