On Tuesday the president will deliver his State of the Union address, and some special guests will have a front-row seat from first lady Michelle Obama’s box.
The White House released the invite-only list on Monday; the special invited guests include the Maryland Senate majority leader, a mother saved by surgery received through the Affordable Care Act, a former prisoner-turned-community activist and a 13-year-old whose letter to Santa found its way to the president.
Below are a few of the guests invited on behalf of the White House to attend this year’s State of the Union address:
Malik Bryant (Chicago)
South Side teen Malik Bryant wanted one thing for Christmas that only Santa could bring: safety. So the 13-year-old wrote a letter to St. Nick saying, "All I ask for is safety. I just wanna be safe."
A nonprofit organization, moved by the seventh-grader's words, forwarded the letter to the White House, and the president, to Malik's surprise, wrote him back.
Malik lives with his mother, Keturah, and two sisters, and his favorite subject is math.
Chelsey Davis (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Earlier this month, at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, President Obama announced a potentially game-changing proposal that would make community college free.
While on campus, he met Chelsey Davis, who is set to graduate in May. Davis not only plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in nutritional science, but she also tutors elementary and middle school children in reading and mathematics at a local learning center. And thanks to a consortium program, she is excited to have the opportunity to spend the summer abroad in Segovia, Spain.
Catherine Pugh (Baltimore)
Maryland Senate Majority Leader
Sen. Catherine Pugh is a jill of all trades. Not only has she held a government seat since she was first elected in 1999, but she is a successful businesswoman as the CEO of C.E. Pugh & Co. She also founded Baltimore's first African-American business newspaper, where she served as managing editor for several years.
During her time in the state Legislature, Pugh has pushed to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and introduced the Healthy Working Families Act, a bill that would allow workers in Maryland to earn paid sick leave.
Prophet Walker (Carson, Calif.)
Co-Founder of Watts United Weekend
Prophet Walker spent six years in prison for robbery. While incarcerated, he started a program to help inmates work toward receiving a two-year degree. Once he was released, he vowed that he would never return and began focusing on his own studies while giving back to the community. The 27-year-old attended Loyola Marymount University's School of Engineering and currently works as a construction engineer. More than 100 prisoners have passed through the program that he founded and attend various universities.
Walker also works with InsideOUT Writers, which teaches juvenile offenders to express themselves through writing.
Astrid Muhammad (Charlotte, N.C.)
In 2013 the outlook was grim for Astrid Muhammad. The 39-year-old wife and mother of two young children had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and didn't have health insurance. Before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, insurance companies could have refused Muhammad treatment, citing her brain tumor as a pre-existing condition. Last year she enrolled in health insurance under the ACA and with full coverage underwent a successful surgery to remove the tumor. Muhammad wrote the president a thank-you letter, noting that without universal health care she could have lost her fight in less than two years.
Muhammad noted in her letter that health care had given her a new lease on life and that she wanted to meet the president "to shake his hand and thank him."
See the full guest list here.