Jill Biden’s guests at the State of the Union address

() — Paul Pelosi; Tire Nichols’ parents; U2 star Bono; Monterey Park shooting hero Brandon Tsay; Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, and a Holocaust survivor are among guests Tuesday night at the Capitol, where President Joe Biden will deliver his State of the Union address.

Biden will touch on key issues of his presidency and tonight he will preview a re-election message for the 2024 election. The guest list for the first lady, Jill Biden’s box, offers a blueprint for what to expect.

The first lady’s 26 guests represent key government priorities and achievements such as infrastructure, mental health, climate and healthcare. They also represent issues the administration has faced this closing year: support for Ukraine in the face of Russian invasion, anti-Semitism, opioid overdose epidemic, support for same-sex marriage, increased political polarization, mass shootings , a renewed national conversation on justice in policing and women’s reproductive health.

“Each of these individuals were invited by the White House because they embody issues or themes that the president will address in his speech, or embody the policies of the Biden-Harris Administration at work for the American people,” the office of the former said. lady in a statement.

These are the guests and the causes they represent.

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US support for Ukraine

Jill Biden has invited Markarova for the second year in a row “in recognition of America’s sustained support for Ukraine,” the White House said. Markarova received a standing ovation when she sat in the first lady’s box during last year’s state of the union address, just days after Russia launched its war against Ukraine. The president is likely to highlight ongoing US assistance to Ukraine, including billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid.


There are multiple guests who have been affected by the bipartisan infrastructure law approved in 2021 that has begun to be implemented in recent months.

Saria Gwin-Maye is a member of the Ironworkers Local 44 union in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is among those who have been employed as a result of the bipartisan infrastructure bill the administration is working to implement with states and localities across the country. Gwin-Maye is working on the Brent Spence Bridge, which has long been a chronic symbol of America’s crumbling infrastructure. Biden traveled to the bridge along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to highlight bipartisanship as the infrastructure bill is intended to invest more than US$2 billion in the nation’s bridges.

Deanna Branch, a Milwaukee mother who has worked to raise awareness about toxic lead pipes after her son suffered lead poisoning from unsafe levels in drinking water and in the home, is also invited.

job growth

The first lady invited several guests highlighting job growth during the Biden administration, statistics the president frequently highlights when making an economic speech to Americans, with the unemployment rate last month at a low 3.4%. .

Biden is expected to single out Maurice “Dion” Dykes, who is training to become a teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee, through a registered apprenticeship program after spending more than two decades working in graphic design.

Kate Foley, a sophomore from Rolling Meadows, Illinois, will also attend. Foley is studying computer integrated manufacturing at a public high school that seeks to create career paths for students through partnerships with community colleges and local employers.

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The AIDS epidemic

The first lady also invited a well-known celebrity with philanthropic ties: Irish rock legend Bono. Bono, a co-founder of the ONE campaign, also worked to build support for the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

The Inflation Reduction Law

The president is expected to highlight the sweeping climate and health care bill that was signed into law last August.

Jacki Liszak, president of the Fort Myers Beach, Florida Chamber of Commerce and a small business owner, met with the president and first lady after Hurricane Ian. Along with the infrastructure bill, the bill is working to “reduce energy costs and make communities like Fort Myers more resilient to extreme weather events through record funding to harden and weatherize the electrical grid, our nation’s roads, bridges, homes, public water systems and more,” the White House said.

Combating extremism and political violence

Biden has repeatedly sought to speak out against political violence, including a major speech on extremism and democracy a week before the midterm elections. This Tuesday, the first lady will host the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Paul, who continues to recover from a politically motivated violent attack at his California home. During the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, pro-Trump supporters sought out Nancy Pelosi, and last fall, an assailant attacked the then-Speaker’s husband with a hammer, yelling: “ Where’s Nancy?”, a “similar chant from those responsible for the January 6 Capitol insurrection,” the White House said.

And the first lady invited the hero of the Monterey Park Lunar New Year shooting, Brandon Tsay, the man who took a gun from the suspect in the California shooting at the Alhambra Ballroom. Tsay, the White House said, “is credited with preventing the attacker, who had killed 11 people and injured 10 others, from carrying out a second attack on the Alhambra.”

The president previously called Tsay to thank him for his act of bravery.

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justice in the police

Tire Nichols’ mother and stepfather, RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, are among the first lady’s guests on Tuesday. Nichols’ death days after he was beaten by police in Memphis last month renewed calls for police reform and reignited a national conversation about fairness in policing. Biden hosted members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House last week to discuss police reform, which has stalled in Congress multiple times and faces an uncertain path.

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women’s reproductive health

The President has taken multiple executive actions in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade and has spoken out strongly against the decision. On Tuesday, Amanda and Josh Zurawski of Austin, Texas will be in the first lady’s box. Amanda Zurawski, the White House said, was unable to receive medical help when her water broke at 18 weeks pregnant because “her doctors were unable to intervene to help her out of concern that giving her the treatment she needed would violate the Texas abortion ban, which prohibits abortion care unless the woman’s life is in danger.” Zurawski, the White House said, “she developed sepsis and nearly died due to the delay in receiving treatment” and “continues to suffer from medical complications due to the delay.”

fight antisemitism

The special guest of the nation’s second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, is Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen of Rockville, Maryland. Cohen and her family were forced to leave their home during the Nazi regime. Cohen was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and released in 1945, eventually emigrating to the United States three years later. Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, recently returned from a trip to Poland and Germany, where he marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a visit to Auschwitz and other key sites aimed at countering anti-Semitism.

Science Act and CHIPS

The president is also expected to proclaim the Science and CHIPS Act passed last year, a bill aimed at boosting domestic production of semiconductor chips. The First Lady will host Paul Sarzoza of Phoenix, Arizona, who owns a small facilities services company that services a major semiconductor manufacturing company, TSMC. TSMC is expanding in Phoenix due to legislation and “to keep up with increased demand for his company’s services, Sarzoza plans to hire 150 to 200 employees next year,” the White House said, evidencing the ” economic plan at work.

Same-sex marriage

Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that codifies protections for same-sex marriage, into law late last year. This Tuesday, same-sex marriage advocates Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith will be among the first lady’s guests. The Nortonsmiths were plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, where the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Mental health

Biden has signaled that tackling the mental health crisis is a key aspect of his agenda.

Guest Harry Miller, current senior and former football player at Ohio State University, “announced that he would no longer be a student-athlete to prioritize his mental health and has since become a mental health advocate and emotional well-being,” according to the White House.


The first lady invited several guests who have been affected by cancer, including breast cancer survivor Darlene Gaffney of North Charleston, South Carolina, who worked with a cancer advocacy ministry at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church. to help educate the community about early detection.

Biden also invited Maurice and Kandice Barron from New York City, whose daughter Ava is in remission from a rare form of pediatric cancer. Maurice Barron wrote a letter to the president sharing his family’s experience.

Lynette Bonar, a registered member of the Navajo Nation and a former Army sergeant and medic who worked as a registered nurse and executive with the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, will also be in attendance. The first lady appeared with Bonar at the opening of the first cancer center on a Native American reservation in 2019.

Addiction and the Overdose Epidemic

Doug Griffin became a key advocate for American families battling addiction after his 20-year-old daughter, Courtney, overdosed on fentanyl. Griffin, the White House said, is “raising awareness about the stigma associated with addiction and calling for better access to substance use disorder treatment services.” The president has presented a National Drug Control Strategy aimed at “(beating) the overdose epidemic.”

Support for US troops

Other guests include a mother-daughter duo, Kristin Christensen and Avarie Kollmar of Seattle, Washington, who have worked with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to advocate for “Hidden Helpers,” children of military and veterans in foster care. Christensen became a caregiver for her husband after he was medically discharged from the Navy due to injuries.

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