On Monday the White House officially announced the first round of guests to be seated in the first lady’s box during the State of the Union.
Two who will be there: Boston-bombing survivors Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman—the two men seen in the heart-wrenching photo in which Arredondo, in a white cowboy hat, helped wheel a severely injured Bauman, who was missing both legs, away to safety. Bauman, 27, and Arredondo, 53, have reportedly since become close friends. Bauman also proved critical in helping to identify the bombers.
Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay male athlete in the United States last year, will also be in attendance. When he first came out, the first lady tweeted to him, “So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back!” The NBA player, who is an unsigned free agent, also received support from the president.
Kathy Hollowell-Makle, Washington, D.C.’s 2013 public school teacher of the year, has been teaching for more than 15 years in the District, beginning as a Teach for America corps member in 1998. She currently teaches at Abram Simon Elementary. By the end of the school year in 2013, 90 percent of her students were demonstrating early literacy at proficient or advanced levels. The previous year, more than 80 percent of her students advanced two or more reading levels.
Gary Bird, a fire chief in Moore, Okla., is credited as one of the key figures in organizing rescue crews to find survivors after a devastating tornado struck the community in May 2013. Death tolls ended up being much lower than original tallies, thanks to the thoroughness of Bird and his search-and-rescue teams. “We will be through every damaged piece of property in this city at least three times before we’re done, and we hope to be done by dark tonight,” Bird said in a press conference the evening the tornado hit.
And finally there is 16-year-old Joey Hudy from Arizona, a young entrepreneur and self-described “maker.” In 2012, at age 14, Hudy attended a White House Science Fair, where President Obama ended up using his “extreme marshmallow cannon” and fired marshmallows across the East Room. Hudy is now currently Intel’s youngest intern.
Given the guest choice, it seems that the president will focus on education in his speech, with Hollowell-Makle and Hudy being the perfect people to point toward. Education, which has been at the forefront of Obama’s domestic policy, was mentioned in his 2013 address when he proposed a $75 billion plan to expand early-childhood education. The plan, however, never made it through the gridlock of Congress during the budget battles.
Read more at Whitehouse.gov.