February 24th, 2009
03:32 PM ET
5 years ago

Three guests in first lady box revealed

 Then-first lady Laura Bush stands with her guests before the 2004 State of the Union address.
Then-first lady Laura Bush stands with her guests before the 2004 State of the Union address.

(CNN) - The White House announced Monday three of what may be at least two dozen guests in the first lady's box at President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.

The guests include an eighth-grader who wrote a letter to congressmen appealing for help in rebuilding her deteriorating school, a Miami banker who gave away $60 million of his own money to his employees, and a Miami-area bank teller.

Ty'Sheoma Bethea, an eighth-grader at the J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, South Carolina, received the prized invite after a letter she wrote to lawmakers appealing for help rebuilding her school made its way to President Obama.

Obama referenced the school during his first press conference earlier this month as evidence of crumbling schools across the country.

The White House said Leonard Abess Jr., the banker who gave away $60 million of proceeds he received over the sale of shares of City National Bank in Florida, demonstrates the kind of "responsibility" the president has called for from high-profile financial CEOs.

Geneva Lawson, a 51-year-old bank teller who benefited from Abess' generosity, will also sit with the first lady. According to the Miami Herald, she has worked as a collection teller, payroll teller, savings teller, print shop clerk, and proof/bookkeeping clerk.

The practice of inviting guests to sit in the House Gallery is a tradition dating back to 1982 when president Ronald Reagan recognized Lenny Skutnick - a good Samaritan who pulled a survivor out of the frozen Potomac River in Washington, DC after an Air Florida plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge.

Since then, presidential administrations steadily increased the number of invitees to the first lady box, often including prominent athletes and celebrities, citizen heroes, members of the military, and individuals likely to benefit from policies proposed by the president.

Last year, first lady Laura Bush hosted 27 guests, including New Orleans jazz musician Irvin Mayfield and registered nurse Tara Kunkel.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also announced Monday hero-U.S. Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger will be a guest in the Speaker's House Gallery box.


Filed under: Obama address
soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Wallace

    This just in: Rush Limbaugh is reporting that the middle schooler cheated on her 4th period math homework. He is claiming this is an obvious sign of the corruption inherent in the Democratic Party.

    February 24, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    And here come the jokes about "the first lady's box."

    February 24, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Dutch/Hampton Roads, VA

    And these GOP lawmakers think that rebuilding our schools is wasteful spending. What idiots!

    February 24, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. Alicia

    Well now...........AMERICANS instead of some lying Iraqi that will give a reason for the carnage of a war.

    BRAVO for finally caring about real Americans!!!!!!

    February 24, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  5. MAGGIE

    I remember that plane going down in the Potomac. That guy jumping into that freezing water had us wondering if we would have done the same thing.

    February 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  6. thomas

    Perhaps the title of this article should be stated differently.

    February 24, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  7. Anonymous in NC

    Enough talking. They need to get the show on the road to sucess. The talking surely must have been discussed enough to figure out how to deal with the economic situations. I still do not understand why Medicare is not being taken care of better as one day all people will have to be on the program. We certanly need to take care of the people that have made our country possible. Stop given so much to the people on medicaid that have a no care attitude and have their hands out to everything free. We need to stop all these young people from having babies just to get welfare. Enough is enough.

    February 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    Seriously CNN...you couldn't be more careful about it? You had to string the 4 words "first lady box revealed" together?

    February 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  9. Willy Brown

    Whoopie!

    February 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  10. C Spurgeon

    Michelle is really startingn to make a great impression. Just be yourself. You are doing great!

    February 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  11. Sara Borellie

    Don't matter to me. I'm not watching that fraud go at defrauding this country any more.

    February 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    And here I am thinking from the headline that you had scoop that Michelle was caught cheating on Barack with 3 other guys....

    February 24, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  13. mike

    And why do we have laura Bush CNN......

    We need another Peoples cable channel.

    Another reason why Americans hate their Media!

    February 24, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  14. Lee

    BRAVO AGAIN! I thought Mrs. Obama was fantastic when she showed her spirt and committment to the American people while campaigning with her husband. I see that growing more each day. I spent almost 3 years at a center serving military families and resigned because as a taxpayer I did not like what I saw happening in regards to the Defense Contractor that oversaw the employees where I worked and lack of services they gave. I can't wait to see how she becomes involved with the military family issues. Bringing folks to the speech to shows just how "open door" she is. BRAVO..BRAVO..BRAVO.

    February 24, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Darren D.

    U go Ms. Obama! I will be there tonight!

    February 24, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. Blatherskite

    What, no Joe the Plumber ? You mean, actual people who actually have done something above-board and admirable? Just another example of change (and people) you can believe in.

    February 24, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  17. Southern Princess

    cnn this is not a state of the union. should not be filed there.

    February 24, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  18. Me

    It's nice to see that this world still has thoughtful, caring, and generous people like the ones mentioned in this story. More importantly, it's nice to see them being recognized in events like this. God bless all.

    February 24, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. EC

    GOD BLESS our First Family, they are truly proving the American people is the PRIORITY when it comes to governing. The more the White House is approachable, the MORE welcoming Americans will feel in regards to being connected to their First Family. It starts with little steps, but every step COUNTS toward rebuilding our country.

    February 24, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  20. obama-mama

    I wish I were a guest of the First Lady. Maybe one of these days.

    February 24, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Ken

    CNN, we can not afford anymore Politics. Please stop bullshit and put the right picture~

    February 24, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. Scott the Independent

    Good choices all. I think this guest program should be extended to major speeches. The guest should be those that insprire bill or policy and or those that should be recognized for heroic acts.

    February 24, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  23. WOW!

    What an honor to have the opportunity to sit with the First lady. I teach Middle School and I cannot imagine how elated my students would be for the chance to talk to this President. God bless the CEO that would give away his own money. The teller has a great job and I am glad that she is being recognized for her work. May God bless this great nation. WE will come through this crisis.

    February 24, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Proud American

    What a excellent idea. We should start including our young people in government. The earlier the better.

    February 24, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  25. Virginia

    Well, will she invite the little old lady who was planted by the administration in Florida to sit with her too???

    February 24, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
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