State of the Union: The guest list
Gun violence victims, local elementary students among attendees
It's not a typical red carpet, but the guest list for Tuesday's State of the Union address features a range of names from successful CEOs to average Americans to local elementary school students.
Victims of gun violence will especially have a prominent role on the list of attendees, as President Obama is expected to again highlight his firearm proposals. Seated in the gallery will be at least 20 survivors of gun violence invited to attend the annual event by members of Congress, who are each given one ticket for a guest to view the speech in person.
The effort is organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. They've been vocal advocates for stricter gun control restrictions, airing television spots calling for legislative action following December's massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut.
Joining the group will be former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, who were invited to attend the State of the Union by Rep. Ron Barber and Sen. John McCain. Both Barber and McCain represent Arizona, the state where Giffords was seriously injured during a shooting in 2011
The parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl shot and killed in Chicago last month, will be guests in first lady Michelle Obama's box. Pendleton was killed just a week after she performed in the festivities surrounding Obama's second inauguration, and the first lady attended her funeral on Saturday.
"This is a way of continuing the momentum, keeping the focus on the need for gun control legislation so we can further protect the people in our communities," Rep. Jim Langevin, D-Rhode Island, told CNN's Brianna Keilar on Sunday. A gun accident in 1980 left Langevin a quadriplegic.
"I want every member of Congress to known that when the president is speaking that night, he's addressing the nation, and he's talking about gun control, members of Congress are going to look up and they're going to see people in the gallery, and they're going to know those people have been affected by gun violence," Langevin said.
Among the lawmakers inviting gun violence survivors to Tuesday's speech is Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. Democratic lawmakers who represent Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado, are also inviting people affected by violence. Both of those communities were sites of deadly shootings in the last year.
People who were affected by both those shootings will be at Tuesday's speech. Carlos Soto, Jr., whose older sister Vicki was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary school, was invited by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut. Soto was killed as she attempted to hide her first grade students.
And Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, invited Teresa Hoover, who lost her son A.J. Boik in the Aurora movie theater shooting last summer. Other invitees include parents of children gunned down in gang violence, and family members of police officers who were shot.
Pelosi also invited legendary singer Tony Bennett as her guest. Bennett recently appeared in a Washington press conference urging Congress to act on tougher gun legislation. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, who backed tough gun legislation in Maryland, was also on Pelosi's list.
On the other side of the gun debate, musician and gun advocate Ted Nugent will be a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, on Tuesday.
While Obama will likely delve into gun violence, he's mostly expected to focus on jobs and the economy. As evidence, Apple CEO Tim Cook has made it onto the very short list of guests accompanied by the first lady. Cook will sit with Michelle Obama in special box seats, said a source with knowledge of the matter.
Also to sit in Obama's box is Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old woman from Florida who stood in line for three hours to vote early for the president on October 28. Poll workers advised her to come back at a later time when she wouldn't have to wait--and she did. Victor has since become a high-profile figure on the issue of voting rights and voting delays.
Bobak Ferdowsi, flight director for the Mars Curiosity Rover, will also get a seat with Obama's group. Known as NASA's "Mohawk Guy," Ferdowsi was part of the team that helped land the car-sized robot on Mars in August.
House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, invited Ted Kremer, a former batboy for the Cincinnati Reds. Ted, 30, was born with Down syndrome and has been "the toast of the town" since Cincinnati Enquirer sports writer John Erardi and video journalist Jeff Swinger featured Ted's story in September. Ted's parents, his brother and sister-in-law, and Erardi and Swinger will be joining them as well.
Jeanette Hernandez Prenger, named "Enterprising Women of the Year" for 2013 by Enterprising Women magazine, will also be a guest of Boehner. She serves as the CEO of a Kansas City-based data management firm called ECCO Select.
Laci Joseph and Henry Joseph, III, two fourth grade students at St. Anthony's Catholic School in Washington, D.C. will also attend as the speaker's guests. They'll be joined by Arthur Mola, principal at Sacred Heart School in Washington, the only bilingual elementary school in the Archdiocese of Washington.
Those also invited by Boehner include Jason Barlow, the president of UAW Local 402, a branch of the United Auto Workers union, and Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross.
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