State of the Union guests include those who benefited from health care law, want an immigration overhaul

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 28, 2014 


President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C.


Guests of the White House at the State of the Union address Tuesday include a fourth-grader from Puerto Rico who likes to cook, the chief executive officer of General Motors and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

Some of the guests, who will join First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, in the first lady's box represent those who have benefit from the new health care law or lobbied for an immigration overhaul.

Tens of millions are expected to watch the 9 p.m. EST address, which Obama will deliver from the U.S. Capitol; House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, a rising star in her party, will deliver the GOP response.

Here are the most recent round of guests, along with information from the White House. Others were announced Monday morning:

Aliana Arzola-Piñero (San Juan, Puerto Rico) 2013 Kids State Dinner attendee Aliana Arzola-Piñero, a fourth grader at the Colegio Puertorriqueño de Niñas, is an avid reader and gymnast who loves to cook with her grandmother, something she’s done since she was two-years-old. She represented Puerto Rico at the 2013 Kid’s State Dinner sponsored by the first lady. Her winning recipe “Yummy Eggplant Lasagna Rolls, incorporates the "My Plate" guidelines. She has championed healthy eating and an active lifestyle for kids.

Cristian Avila (Phoenix, AZ) DREAMer, “Core Faster” and Voter Engagement Coordinator, Mi Familia Vota Cristian Avila, 23, was brought to the United States with his younger brother and sister when he was nine-years-old. Though he became an All-American scholar by 7th grade and received a full scholarship to a private Jesuit high school, he was limited by his status. Last year, he received temporary relief from deportation through the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The 23-year-old Arizona resident started volunteering with Mi Familia Vota, a non-profit Latino civic engagement program, at the age of 16, and he was one of the core fasters in the Fast for Families demonstration late last year at the foot of the Capitol, which the president, vice president, first lady and Cabinet and administration officials visited. After 22 days, he passed on the fast to others but has continued to push Congress to take up an immigration overhaul.

Mary Barra (Detroit, MI) Chief Executive Officer, General Motors Company Mary Barra was named chief executive officer of General Motors effective Jan. 15.She is also a member of the GM Board of Directors and the first female CEO in the company’s history. In 2013, Fortune Magazine named Barra one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business and Forbes Magazine names her one of the world's 100 Most Powerful Women.

Governor Steve Beshear (D-KY) Beshear, elected in 2007, has extended access to affordable health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians by expanding Medicaid and setting up a new health insurance Marketplace, Kynect.

Tyrone Davis (Winston-Salem, NC) Fellow with the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps Tyrone Davis, of Winston-Salem, NC, has been legally blind since the age of nine. Despite his vision loss, he ran cross-country and track in high school, and received a political science degree and Masters of Public Administration from North Carolina State University. He developed an interest in environmental issues during his time as an undergraduate, which led to a fellowship with the Environmental Defense Fund in 2010, placing him at Elizabeth City State University, a historically black university. His recommendations showed the school how to achieve savings of more than $31,000 a year, resulting in nearly 200 million tons of carbon emissions reductions annually. He is now in his third year at Elon University School of Law.

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard (Washington, DC) Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy This year, Vice Admiral Michelle Howard will become the first female four-star Admiral in the 238-year-history of the United States Navy, and the first African-American female to achieve four-star rank in the history of the military. She was nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate in December.

Sabrina Simone Jenkins (Charleston, SC) Sabrina Simone Jenkins is a single mother to her teenage daughter Kenya. After serving in the Air Force, Jenkins took classes at DeVry University while working full time, graduating with a 3.7 GPA at the age of 42 while caring for ailing family members and becoming seriously ill herself. She then earned her master's degree in human resources in 2012. She has $90,000 in student loan debt, something that will only worsen as she pays for her daughter's college tuition. Her story brought her to the attention of The Shriver Report, which seeks to highlight the 1 in 3 American women living on the brink of poverty.

Mayor Ed Lee (San Francisco, CA) Mayor Edwin M. Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants and the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, a position he has held for more than three years. In 2013, he hosted a series of town halls to mobilize the Silicon Valley business community in support of changes in immigration law. Lee is also working on a proposal to significantly increase San Francisco's minimum wage. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a five-year, up to $30 million Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant to support school improvement and revitalize the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco.

Andra Rush (Detroit, MI) Founder and Chairperson, The Rush Group, Detroit Manufacturing Systems Andra Rush is a descendant of the Mohawk Tribe from the Six-Nation Reservation, and the founder and chairperson of the Rush Group family of companies, which include Rush Trucking, Dakkota Integrated Systems, and Detroit Manufacturing Systems. This consortium of manufacturing, trucking, assembly, and distribution is one of the largest Native American-owned businesses in the country.

Amanda Shelley (Gilbert, AZ) Physician Assistant For years Amanda Shelley, a 37-year-old physician assistant from Gilbert, Ariz. was unable to get insurance due to a pre-existing condition. On Jan. 1, she received insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Two days later, she began having severe pain in her abdomen. The next day, when the pain became too much to bear, she went to the emergency room and eventually had emergency abdominal surgery. She is one of millions of Americans who have enrolled in insurance through the new health care law.

Antoinette Tuff (Atlanta, GA) DeKalb County bookkeeper On August 20, 2013, Antoinette Tuff prevented a shooting at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school in the suburbs of Atlanta. Tuff, a mother of one daughter and one son, talked the would-be shooter down, sharing her personal struggles, discussing love and doing her best to connect with him until he surrendered before harming anyone. Obama called Tuff after the ordeal and has said what she did was remarkable.Tuff has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal for civilian heroism.

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