(WASHINGTON) — It’s the most exclusive guest list in a town full of power players. Sitting with the first lady as the president delivers the State of the Union address Tuesday night will be an elementary school teacher, a college student and a secretary, among other VIPs.
The coveted invitations go to people who reinforce the message of the president’s annual address, putting a human face on policies ranging from the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to the killing of Osama bin Laden, to health care reform and rebuilding American manufacturing. Of the 21 guests invited to see the president’s election-year address, 12 hail from battleground states.
Joining the first lady will be Sara Ferguson, a Pennsylvania elementary school teacher who vowed to continue working without pay in the face of budget cuts, and Adam Rapp, a cancer survivor from Illinois who the White House says benefited from the president’s health care overhaul.
Two Coloradans will be also sitting with Mrs. Obama. Lorelei Kilker is a chemist who benefited from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation into alleged sexual discrimination. University of Colorado Denver student Mahala Greer, who will graduate in May with $35,000 in student loan debt, represents the administration’s push to make college more affordable.
Entrepreneur Hiroyuki “Hiro” Fujita, whose Cleveland-based company exports high-tech products around the world, will sit with Mrs. Obama to highlight the importance of manufacturing and bringing jobs back to America.
Michigan lab technician Bryan Ritterby will also join the first lady. After being laid off from his manufacturing job in 2009, Ritterby enrolled in community college and was hired by Energetx Composites, testing materials for wind turbines. Ritterby said he was surprised to receive the invitation, telling his hometown paper The Holland Sentinel that he’s “just an average Joe.”
You may not recognize her name, but Debbie Bosanek has been a central figure in the president’s push for economic fairness. Bosanek is the secretary of billionaire Warren Buffet, who has famously argued that he should not pay a higher tax rate than she does. The argument is the basis of the president’s “Buffet Rule” and tonight he is expected to continue to call for wealthy Americans to “pay their fair share.”
Wife of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs will also be in attendance. Jobs is the founder and chair of Emerson Collective, an organization focused on harnessing the potential of individuals from underserved communities to help them build a better life.
Last may be the most recognized invitee, Mark Kelly. From the first lady’s box, the astronaut will watch over the House floor where his wife Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will sit with her colleagues. Giffords announced Sunday she is stepping down from her position to focus on her recovery following last year’s tragic shooting.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Ralph Ellis, CNN
Heather Long, CNN