Rock star Bono, the family of Tyre Nichols and the 26-year-old who disarmed a gunman in last month’s Monterey Park, California, shooting were among the featured guests sitting alongside first lady Jill Biden at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
The guests were invited “because they personify issues or themes” Biden addressed in the speech or they embody administration policies that are working for the American people, the White House said. President Joe Biden referred to several of the invitees by name.
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, sat with the first lady and invited Ruth Cohen, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor from the Washington area, to be his guest, his office said. Emhoff, who is Jewish, has taken a lead role in administration efforts to combat antisemitism.
— Maurice and Kandice Barron of New York, the parents of a 3-year-old who has survived a rare pediatric cancer, meant to highlight Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.
— Lynette Bonar of Tuba City, Arizona, a nurse and medical executive involved in bringing the first cancer center to a Native American reservation.
— Bono, the Irish lead singer of U2, for his advocacy and philanthropic support for global health and AIDS relief initiatives.
— Deanna Branch of Milwaukee, whose son was diagnosed with lead poisoning from unsafe drinking water in their home, as Biden aims to replace all lead drinking water pipes in the coming decade.
— Kristin Christensen and Avarie Kollmar of Seattle, a mother-daughter pair who are sharing their story about caring for their injured Navy veteran husband and father.
— Ruth Cohen of Rockville, Maryland, a Holocaust survivor and volunteer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who has warned against rising antisemitism.
— Mitzi Colin Lopez of West Chester, Pennsylvania, an advocate for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children who have received protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
— Maurice “Dion” Dykes of Knoxville, Tennessee, who is training to be a teacher after a 25-year graphic design career as part of a program funded by the 2020 COVID-19 relief law.
— Kate Foley of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, a 10th grade student looking to use the skills from her school engineering classes to pursue a career as a biomedical engineer.
— Darlene Gaffney of North Charleston, South Carolina, a breast cancer survivor who has promoted the importance of early detection and timely cancer screenings.
— Doug Griffin of Newton, New Hampshire, who lost his daughter, Courtney, in 2014 to a fentanyl overdose, as the Biden administration works to strengthen federal efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
— Saria Gwin-Maye of Cincinnati, an ironworker who will work on the federally supported revitalization of the Brent Spence Bridge.
— Jacki Liszak of Fort Myers, Florida, who met with the president and first lady in the wake of Hurricane Ian and whose business stands to benefit from federal climate resiliency funding.
— Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. was a guest last year when Biden spoke days after the Russian invasion of her country. She returned to the first lady’s box as Biden seeks to sustain U.S. and allied support for Ukraine.
— Harry Miller of Upper-Arlington, Ohio, a mechanical engineering student and a former football player for Ohio State University, who left football to prioritize his mental health.
— Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith of Northampton, Massachusetts, the plaintiffs in Goodridge vs. MA Dept. of Public Health, which cleared the way for their state legalizing same-sex marriage.
— Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was severely injured days before the midterm elections by a man with a hammer who allegedly sought to harm the California lawmaker.
— Paul Sarzoza of Phoenix, the owner of a cleaning and facilities services company that is benefitting from servicing companies investing in high-tech manufacturing in his area.
— Brandon Tsay of San Marino, California, who disarmed the shooter responsible for killing 11 people in Monterey Park, California, last month during celebrations of the Lunar New Year, preventing further deaths.
— RowVaughn and Rodney Wells of Memphis, Tennessee, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols who died last month after being severely beaten by police in Memphis, sparking a renewed call for police reform legislation.
— Amanda and Josh Zurawski of Austin, Texas, who found doctors unable to intervene after her water prematurely broke at 18 weeks pregnant due to the Texas abortion ban. Amanda Zurawski developed sepsis and nearly died because of the delay in receiving treatment, as the Biden administration looks to highlight the consequences of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last year.