February 24th, 2009
03:32 PM ET
6 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. Brad, OR

    "It's about the economic stimulus bill," he added. "If you're going to make that about anybody, it would be [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, which it's not."

    -------------------------------–So basically, what Delonas is saying that he wasn't talking about the president getting shot, just the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Is he an idiot? This guy should be toast and he should be fired so he can go peddle that trash somewhere else. There are so many underground papers who would love someone with his sense of humor. Has he tried employment with David Duke or Al Quaeda? They would love him.

    Murdoch is a moron for keeping this guy, and throw the editor out as well. Freedom of speech comes with responsibility and Delonas is as responsible as a fox in a hen house. Throw the bum out, then take away the waiver.

    February 24, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Woopi do – I wonder what color they are.

    February 24, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Peggy

    The Ptresident is FOR the people, but the Repubicans hate to see his progress. They did not expect a young black man to be so intelligent and loving, unlike them.

    Instead of bashing the President, and not give a hoot for the American people, they should just take in consideration, that the Demograts won the election, and join with the President, to make the great U.S.A
    get back on its feet.

    But no, they just cannot come to terms that they in fact lost.
    Just take a look who is doing all the damage here. The white headed Republicans WHO HAVE ENOUGHT OF THEIR OWN MONEY TO ENJOY, while the less fortunate, suffer because of their unwilliness to put Americans back to work.

    They the Republicans will do anyting possible to stop the goodness of this great President.

    GET A LIFE REPUBLICANS, AND WAKE UP, AND STOP ACTING LIKE A BUNCH OF 2 YEAR OLD.

    February 24, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. Big George

    I really don't see where anything this woman does is newsworthy what with the US falling apart. I don't know of anyone even remotely interested in her except the koolaid drinkers and people of color.

    February 24, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  5. rob

    This is a response for the story below :

    Christiane Amanpour has, as usual, shown us how the left wing in this country and the world would have the US act on the global stage.

    Quote: "With Tuesday's speech coming about a month ahead of that trip, allies around the world will hope to hear Obama outline a return to the relationship of consultation, cooperation and compromise

    Who has the US under Bush not Consulted with, Cooperated with or Compromised with accept the very leaders that won't do any of those things with the US. Why do we have to compromise with an Iran who wants Isreal "Wiped off the Map" and dispite the UN report that she cites was reported just last week that they are almost ready to build a Nuc. WHERE do you compromise with that.

    The US has always been a good friend to its allies and very generous throughout the world with aid etc. But, Obama must negotiate from strength and resolve with our adversaries or they will feel emboldened to act out more and more.

    February 24, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Justice Secretary Jack Straw has vetoed the publication of minutes of key Cabinet meetings held in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

    Thank you Bush !

    February 24, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. CONCERN

    Rupert Murdoch apologizes for controversial NY Post cartoon

    February 24, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Hey, no Rev. Wright? What about Bill Ayers?

    February 24, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. white female

    This is awsome!!!! Maybe Sen. Lindsey(out-of-touch) Graham will see what he can use this money to do in his state, or is it these Southern Gov. just don't want Black to get a better education. They bitch, and moarn about single family household, no fathers in the home, too many teens having babies, well maybe if you give them a change to get a good education and carry on with their lives like any human being want out of life they wouldn't want to sit around not be able to work a good paying job, and sell drugs to make a living.
    Get a grip All you backward southern slave master the jig is up, you have no more slave to master.

    February 24, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  10. Rory O Shea

    Just curious, shouldn't that photo be of the CURRENT first lady?

    February 24, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  11. republicans hate america

    I will listen to Obama speak and then when the opposition speaker Jindal has his turn to speak i will turn the channel as I am not interested in hearing anything that Muslim has to say

    February 24, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  12. J

    I hope they give that pilot a medal soon. Not many people display that kind of skill and heroism, except for our military troops. Kudos to him and the other invitees for a job well done.

    February 24, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  13. MM from Canada

    I think this is a very nice idea!

    February 24, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  14. Alma G. Hurtado

    It's not easy to comment on this small space all the good and bad items concerning all that is wrong with Washington–but lets hope Mr. Obama gets a start with at least some of the bad things that has brought us to this point of our lifes. God be help him-he'll need it !

    February 24, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. Jackie in Dallas

    GOP snide comments in 3....2....1.

    Maybe they ought to reread the story and find out a Republican started the whole guest thing, and that Laura Bush had 27 guests just last year.

    So far, I like the First Lady's choices, especially the 8th grader. Perhaps, just perhaps, it could be an annual thing...like the winner of an essay contest of how the economy is hurting their family, or what would be nice to see fixed.

    February 24, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  16. Sue

    Wait, isn't expecting the rich to actually be charitable with their millions fascist, or socialist? Or just being a good person? We all know that Republicans believe that every cent they earn is theirs, and that the only projects the government should fund involve war.

    February 24, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  17. NY republican

    WHo is Senator Reid bringing to the party? How About Joe (the old white man) Biden? We know about Nancy Pelosi's guests, Mrs. President's guests. How about Senator Burris's guests? What of Senator Guillibrand? How about Senator Schumer? Do the republicans get to bring guests? But most of all WHY IS THIS NEWS?

    February 24, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  18. Boise, Idaho

    If you are as tired as I am of reading about scary Sarah Palin, join me in the solution: Stop clicking on the links! She will go away only when we stop reading about her. Together, we can rid ourselves of her horrific presence. Thanks.

    February 24, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Myra Delaney

    I am totally surprised to the point I just won't watch that "show" tonight.

    February 24, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. sick n tired of CNN moderators

    Woopdee friggin do!!!!!!

    February 24, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. Lynn West Bloomfield, Michigan

    Jindal's speech is already written. OBSTRUCT! OBSTRUCT! OBSTRUCT!

    February 24, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  22. Ya_Ya

    No Texas Proud, you're not a coward – – Probably not a spelling bee winner either.

    February 24, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. cathy smithson

    Those chosen few are just being used by the Obama machine, but they are too stupid to know it. I will not be watching this speech, as far as I am concerned we have already heard enough blah blah blah out of this man in just the first month. This is a guy who just loves to hear himself talk, but the rest of us are getting quite weary of his preachy patriachal tone and pedantic delivery.

    February 24, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Beachlover

    Hey Peggy, Try proofreading before you submit. Why should the Republicans accept the fact that Democrats won the election? The Democrats never accepted the fact that the Republicans won the lat time and did they try to work with the President for the good of the country? I think not.

    February 24, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  25. meadowlands

    This is not a state of the nation address why is it being called that. BTW, we all know the state of the nation – in shambles

    February 24, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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