Who’s on the guest list for the State of the Union speech? ⋆

WASHINGTON — While members of Congress may not be able to speak during the State of the Union address, they often get their message across through the guests they bring.

This year is no exception. Lawmakers through their invitees attempted to signal their approval or disapproval of President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, or to highlight bills they hope will pass this session.

Republicans invited law enforcement officers to show their continued support for police, whom they’ve often accused Democrats of trying to defund. GOP lawmakers also invited prominent business owners, such as the CEO of a popcorn company and the head of a trucking company.

Democrats invited labor organizers, reproductive healthcare providers, gun control activists and family members who lost loved ones to police brutality. Democrats also brought guests who benefited from bipartisan legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, which tackled health care and included incentives for energy efficient technology.

Biden will also use guests to highlight some of the laws he’s signed during his first two years in the Oval Office as well as areas where he hopes Congress will work with his administration during the 118th Congress.

Speaker Tate, Detroit abortion rights activist to attend Biden’s State of the Union address

Among those in the gallery overlooking the House floor will be RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, who accepted an invitation from the White House and Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was beaten by five Memphis, Tennessee police officers during a traffic stop on Jan. 7. He died three days later. The graphic video of the beating sparked protests against police brutality and renewed calls for police reform. 

“President Biden has made clear that we must take action to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again,” the White House said in its guest announcement. “In addition to signing an executive order last year, the President continues to call on Congress to send the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to his desk.”

Here’s a roundup of more guests attending Tuesday’s State of the Union address, which begins at 9 p.m. Eastern:


Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova  — This is the second time Markarova will attend as a guest, after Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago. The war is ongoing.

Maurice and Kandice Barron — The New York couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Ava, survived pediatric cancer. Biden will talk during the speech about “ending cancer as we know it” and highlight his administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.

Lynette Bonar — The Arizona resident and member of Navajo Nation met first lady Jill Biden during the opening of the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation’s Specialty Care Center. The facility was the first cancer center on a Native American reservation, according to the White House.

Bono — The lead singer for U2 and cofounder of the ONE campaign has spent years bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS and global poverty issues.

Deanna Branch — The Milwaukee resident “is working to build a lead safe environment for her community after her son Aidan battled lead poisoning as a result of unsafe levels of lead in their drinking water and home,” according to the White House.

Ruth Cohen — The Rockville, Maryland resident survived the Holocaust after Nazis imprisoned her at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Cohen met Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff prior to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.                                                                                           

Mitzi Colin Lopez — The Pennsylvania resident’s parents brought her to the United States when she was 3. As a DREAMer, she was able to graduate from West Chester University with a degree in political science under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Maurice “Dion” Dykes — The Knoxville, Tennessee resident is part of a teacher Registered Apprenticeship program, which was approved by the “U.S. Department of Labor in 2022 with support from the American Rescue Plan,” according to the White House.

Doug Griffin — The Newton, New Hampshire resident’s 20-year-old daughter, Courtney, died from a fentanyl overdose in 2014. He now supports other families by “raising awareness about the stigma associated with addiction, and calling for better access to substance use disorder treatment services,” according to the White House.

Saria Gwin-Maye — The Cincinnati resident, ironworker and member of Ironworkers Local 44 “introduced the President at the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Kentucky, which is receiving a major investment thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” according to the White House.

Jacki Liszak — From Fort Myers, Florida, she is president and CEO of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and an elected fire commissioner for the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District.

Harry Miller — A former football player for The Ohio State University, the Upper Arlington resident is now studying mechanical engineering. Miller chose to prioritize his mental health over continuing to play football.

Paul Sarzoza — The Phoenix resident is president and CEO of a cleaning and facilities services company, Verde. He plans to hire between 150 and 200 people next year to keep up with growth, according to the White House.  

Amanda and Josh Zurawski — Amanda was unable to get medical treatment in her home state of Texas after her water broke at 18 weeks. Doctors, concerned that treating her would violate the state’s abortion law, sent her home, where she developed sepsis “and nearly died because of the delay in receiving treatment,” according to the White House.


Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin — David Hovde, who has Type 2 diabetes and has benefited from the $35 insulin price cap for Medicare recipients.

Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet — Paul Bruchez, fifth-generation rancher, from Reeder Creek Ranch.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker — Aqeela Sherrills, one of the founders of the Newark Community Street Team in 2014. Booker said in a written statement that “Aqeela’s profound work in Newark with Mayor Ras J. Baraka shows that community-based violence intervention and prevention programs work.”

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin — Maryland Democratic Gov. Wes Moore, who was sworn in as the state’s first Black governor earlier this year.

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy — Will Bankston of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department, who, while off duty, is credited with pulling a man from his car that was submerged in water due to a crash.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto – Rachelle Pellissier, executive director of Crisis Support Services of Nevada, the state’s crisis call center and a 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline national backup center.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst — Sydney Rieckhoff, CEO and co-founder of Almost Famous Popcorn.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. John Fetterman — Dennis “Freedom” Horton, who had his sentence commuted after he and his brother were sentenced to life in prison for unknowingly being getaway drivers for a murderer.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley – Dan Van Alstine of Des Moines, trucking business owner.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine — James Gibbs, at-large international vice president of the United Mine Workers of America.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley — Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen — Las Vegas Metro Police Department Officer Laura Villicana, who as a native of East Las Vegas “has been doing exemplary work to bring her community and LVMPD closer and increase trust,” according to Rosen.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott — Miami Shores Police Department Police Chief David Golt.

Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow — Bob Sheehan, the CEO of Community Mental Health Association of Michigan.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen — Angela Alsobrooks, the first woman to serve as Prince George’s County executive.

Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner — Marguerite Bailey Young, a 94-year-old retired school system administrator who has benefited from a $35 cap in her insulin price for Medicare recipients due to the Inflation Reduction Act.

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock — Lacy Mason, a Georgian who was unable to pay for her insulin while in graduate school, even with private health insurance. Warnock said he invited her to show the need to cap insulin prices at $35 for those on private insurance, not just those with Medicare benefits.


Missouri Democratic Rep. Cori Bush — Michael Brown, Sr., father of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by police in 2014. The grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer sparked the Ferguson protests and led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Louisiana Democratic Rep. Troy Carter — Mona Hardin, the mother of Ronald Greene, the Black motorist who died in Louisiana State Police custody after white troopers beat him during a traffic stop.

Oregon Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer — Portland police officer Jordan Zaitz, who is part of the Bureau’s Neighborhood Response Team, “frequently working with local residents and businesses on recurring problems within the East Precinct’s jurisdiction,” according to Zaitz.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean — Kelsey Leigh, an abortion patient and advocate from Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chris DeLuzio — James “Hutchie” VanLandingham, a striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette worker.  VanLandingham, a mailroom worker in the Post-Gazette’s printing facility, has been on strike with dozens of colleagues who belong to the Communication Workers of America, the Teamsters and the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, since October over a health care dispute.

In January, a judge for the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Post-Gazette owner Block Communications, Inc., broke the law in failed contract negotiations with the Newspaper Guild. Block Communications is expected to appeal. The labor dispute remains ongoing.

Iowa Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra — Chad Tentinger, lead developer of Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef Company.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick — Sara Harvey, who after being diagnosed with retinoblastoma and having her eye surgically removed raised $4,000 for the Four Diamonds fund. The charity “covers 100 percent of all medical expenses related to cancer care not covered by insurance for eligible Four Diamonds children” and invests in pediatric cancer research at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, according to its website.

Florida Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost — Manuel Oliver, the parent of Joaquin Oliver, who died in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

Iowa Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson — Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Trent Dirks, “who is using his experience with PTSD and alcohol dependence to help other veterans,” according to Hinson. Hinson and Dirks will “continue to work together to shine a light on veterans’ mental health and ensure those who served our country have the support they need when they return home,” Hinson said.

Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee — Misty Tzugaris, a mother and teacher, who has talked about getting an abortion under “extraordinary medical circumstances.” She said in a written statement that she is “honored to be sitting in the House chamber representing the voices of the many women whose rights could be ripped away or already have been by an extreme political agenda.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy — NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, an outspoken critic of totalitarian regimes including China and his native Turkey. Freedom played for the Portland Trailblazers and four other teams over an 11-year career.

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore — Former Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Sterling Brown, who was stunned with a Taser and tackled by multiple police officers for parking in a handicap spot at a Walgreens. Brown was awarded a $750,000 settlement over the incident and has pushed for police reform.

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross — Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin — Maryland Secretary of State Susan Lee, who is the state’s first Asian American secretary of state.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise —  Dr. Gerald “Gerry” Cvitanovich, a coroner for Jefferson Parish, which has seen a spike in opioid-related deaths.

Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube — Darrell Woodie, who called 911 after witnessing the congressman fall from a ladder while cutting trees at his property in Sarasota. Steube said Woodie is the “epitome of a Good Samaritan.”

Michigan Democratic Rep. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib — Shanay Watson-Whittaker, the deputy campaign manager of the Michigan Reproductive Freedom For All campaign during 2022.

Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow — Richard M. Fierro, an Army veteran who is credited with saving lives when he helped disarm the gunman during the Club Q mass shooting in November in Colorado Springs.

Reporters Ashley Murray and Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.

authored by Jennifer Shutt
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F02%2F07%2Fwhos-on-the-guest-list-for-the-state-of-the-union-speech%2F

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