Trump’s State of the Union guests highlight themes of his speech
Tree of Life massacre survivors. Sobriety from the opioid epidemic. A prisoner advocate. A tax cut beneficiary. A kid named Trump.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump’s State of the Union guests will complement the themes of his Tuesday night speech, which is expected to cast a unifying tone but also could inflame rhetoric on issues such as immigration.
The group of 13, per the White House, represents “the very best of America.”
Here are the guests:
Alice Marie Johnson
President Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender, last June following his Oval Office meeting about Johnson with Kim Kardashian West. Johnson had served 21 years of a life sentence after she was convicted on charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine, according to the nonprofit organization Can-Do, which advocates for clemency for nonviolent drug offenders. Johnson’s presence is expected to highlight the administration’s work on criminal justice.
Timothy Matson and Judah Samet
Timothy Matson and Judah Samet are survivors of the horrific anti-Semitic Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh that left 11 worshippers dead last October. Samet, a Holocaust survivor, served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces before moving to the United States in the 1960s.
“It just never ends. It’s never completely safe for Jews. It’s in the DNA. Not just America’s DNA but the world’s,” Samet told CNN shortly after the attack.
Matson, a member of the Pittsburgh police department’s SWAT team, was a first responder at the attack. “He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and saved countless lives in that heinous, anti-Semitic attack,” said the White House.
Ashley Evans has “struggled with opioid and substance abuse for much of her life,” according to the White House.
“In 2017, she was pregnant and suffered a relapse. Her recovery began with the birth of her daughter along with the help of Brigid’s Path, a medical care facility in Kettering, Ohio,” the White House said.
“I hid my addiction for six years by isolating myself and being alone. And for the first time in my life I’m not alone,” Evans told WDTN, praising Brigid’s Path for advocating on behalf of her daughter and her.
Evans has been sober for more than a year and later this month she will be reunited with her daughter full time. The administration has been working to find solutions and support for the opioid epidemic, which is also part of the first lady’s platform.
After spending 21 years in prison for drug-related offenses, Matthew Charles was released and began to get back on his feet. Then he was sent back.
“Turns out my release — ordered by a federal judge who thought a new drug-sentencing law applied to my case — was a mistake,” Charles wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
But in January, Charles became the first prisoner released as a result of the bipartisan First Step Act, according to the White House.
Charles is now an advocate for prison revisions, writing, “Since leaving prison, I have looked for ways to serve the poor and to advocate on behalf of those I left behind.”
Grace Eline is the first couple’s youngest State of the Union guest. At 9 years old, Eline was diagnosed with germinoma, a type of brain cancer.
“Grace recently finished chemotherapy and today shows no evidence of the disease. She is determined to help other children who are fighting cancer,” said the White House.
Sixth-grader Joshua Trump is not related to the President.
“Unfortunately, Joshua has been bullied in school due to his last name,” according to the White House, but “he is thankful to the first lady and the Trump family for their support.”
The presence of Elvin Hernandez, a special agent with the Trafficking in Persons Unit of the Homeland Security Department’s Homeland Security Investigations division, will highlight the administration’s commitment to combating human trafficking.
According to the White House, Hernandez has experience with narcotics, gangs and human trafficking, and “during his current 7-year assignment, Elvin has conducted numerous successful international human trafficking investigations involving transnational organized crime groups.”
Roy James’ presence at the State of the Union will highlight the administration’s tax cuts and jobs act, specifically its Opportunity Zones investment program. James is the plant manager of the Vicksburg Forest Products lumber facility in Mississippi.
“He had worked at the sawmill for 26 years and become vice president of operations when he was told that the facility would close its doors,” according to the White House, but following the tax bill’s passage, “The plant soon reopened and Roy was hired to oversee the entire facility.”
Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong
Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong are the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Gerald and Sharon David, who “were tragically murdered in their home in Nevada by an illegal immigrant in January,” the White House said. The presence of the Davids’ survivors highlights the President’s push for border security.
Tom Wibberley’s 19-year-old son, Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley, was killed in a terrorist attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.
“It doesn’t get any easier for me,” Tom Wibberley said during a remembrance ceremony last year, per Herald Mail Media. “I stay busy all the time. That’s how I deal with it.”
A fund in Craig Wibberley’s name gives four $1,000 scholarships each year to students studying computer science, according to the White House.