President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address is Tuesday, Jan. 12, commemorating his eight years as our nation's leader. While President Obama's final SOTU transcript hints at his hopes for the future, many viewers have numerous questions prior to the President taking the podium; one being, "Who did Obama invite to the State of the Union?" In short, quite a few people.
President Obama invited a grand total of 23 people to attend his final State of the Union, who will all be seated next to First Lady Michelle Obama. Usually — and in past State of the Union addresses — people invited to attend on behalf of the president are ridiculously high achievers, who have either written powerfully moving letters to the president or represent a point the president intends to make during his speech.
In a somewhat unprecedented move, one of the seats will remain empty. According to an announcement made by The White House, this seat will, "commemorate the lives lost to gun violence," continuing to say that those lives "need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory."
Here are the 23 people who will attend President Obama's final State of the Union with, arguably, the best seat in the house.
Sue Ellen Allen
Sue Ellen Allen is a former prison inmate from Scottsdale, Arizona. Since her incarceration and 2009 release, she has devoted her life to assisting fellow released prisoners as they attempt to reintegrate themselves back into society.
She founded the non-profit Gina's Team, preparing women to re-enter society while they are still in prison, providing essential education and job training programs.
Gloria Balenski, from Schaumburg, Illinois, wrote a letter to the president, highlighting her struggles at the beginning of the recession. In her letter, she detailed the loss of her job, the questions surrounding her husband's auto plant job, and the loss of her son's college education savings, at the hands of a falling stock market.
She also detailed how Obamacare helped her family survive her husband's heart attack, which piled on over $400,000 worth of medical bills.
Jennifer Bragdon of Austin, Texas is a 42 year old community college student who, also works full time and is raising a family. Because of her time and schedule constraints, her community college is allowing her to finish her degree, one course at a time.
Edith Childs, from Greenwood, South Carolina, was an Obama supporter from the very beginning. In fact, Childs coined the now famous "Obama For President" rally cry of 2008, "Fired up! Ready to go!"
Cynthia "Cindy" K. Dias
Cindy K. Dias is an advocate for homeless veterans. Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada and a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, she was once a resident of Las Vegas' Veteran's Village, a non-profit that houses homeless veterans.
Mark Davis, of Washington, DC, started a small business named WDC Solar, which only hires low-income individuals to install green solar panels for private homes and in low-income communities.
Cary Dixon is an advocate for a possible solution to the current opioid epidemic, plaguing the United States. Dixon, from Huntington, West Virginia, is a parent of a child with a substance abuse problem, and has appeared with the president before, when he has advocated for treatment programs and comprehensive solutions for people with addictions.
Lydia Doza is from Anchorage, Alaska, and is an engineering undergrad student who advocates for more women to join STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Refaai Hamo, currently living in Troy, Michigan, is a Syrian refugee. He is one of a few refugees who resettled in the United States after Congress attempted to block their arrival. He is easily the most political guest of the evening.
Lisa Jaster of Houston, Texas is a member of the first class of women to graduate from Army Ranger School. She is part of the first class of women to be allowed to attend the school.
Mayor Mark Luttrell
Mark Luttrell is a Republican Mayor from Shelby County, Tennessee, who is famous for turning his city into a model for former inmate rehabilitation reform.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy
The Governor of Connecticut, now in his second term, has backed the president on an umber of fronts; from gun reform to prison reform.
Braden Mannering of Bear, Delaware, is a 12-year-old volunteer with First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign. Inspired by Michelle Obama, the young lady started Brae's Brown Bags, a program that delivers healthy meals to homeless and low-income families.
Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft and an education advocate, who recently pledged $75 million to computer science education.
Jim Obergefell of Cincinnati, Ohio was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that led to the nation-wide legalization of same-sex marriage.
Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole
Kathleen O'Toole is Seattle, Washington's Police Chief, and recently gained national recognition for implementing policies within her police department that worked to stop racism and police brutality. Some of her work has included the mandatory wearing of body cameras and an increased system of transparency.
Ryan Reyes lost his partner in the recent San Bernardino shooting, and is also an advocate for the fair treatment of Muslims.
Ronna Rice of Greeley, Colorado is a small-business owner, whose family-run business is a small honey export company and a great example of how small businesses have been able to flourish and become successful under President Obama's two-term presidency.
Cedric Rowland lives in Chicago, Illinois and is an Affordable Care Act Navigator, whose entire job is to assist people as they sign up for health insurance.
Naveed Shah was born in Saudi Arabia, and immigrated to the United States when he was just two years old. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, he enlisted in the United States Army and served four years.
Earl Smith of Austin, Texas is a Vietnam War veteran. Smith met Obama in the elevator of the Austin Hyatt Regency, where Smith worked as a security director, back in 2008. Smith gifted the president with an Army patch he had warn for over 40 years.
Spencer Stone of Sacramento, California was one of the United States servicemen that stopped a terrorist attack on a train in Europe. Stone is a staff sergeant in the Army who was on a vacation when he subdued a would-be terrorist, saving countless lives.
Oscar Vazquez is a US Army veteran and a DREAMer from Fort Worth, Texas. Vazquez moved to the United States from Mexico with his family when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in mechanical engineering but was forced to return to Mexico until he was granted a green card.
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