February 24th, 2009
03:32 PM ET
9 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. James

    Class and Dignity is what we are seeing in the white house now.
    And it is way overdue.

    Some people posting on here still do not get it and probably never will.

    It's about conducting yourself in a respectful manner and about doing what's right and accountability.

    These are Values that alot in our country have foregotten.

    Sorry to say, but with the Economy collapsing, alot of people are going to get a wake up call on morals and honesty.

    Thank the good lord this young man has been elected president and we NOW FINALLY have a First Lady of Elegance, grace and dignity.

    P.S. I am a 46 year old white male by the way.

    Good Job Mr President

    February 24, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  2. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

    Do some of you people actually READ the article before posting???

    "J" who posted at 2:26 pm - The pilot they reference in the article was involved in a 1982 incident.... not the recent Hudson River event.
    "Mario" at 12:58 pm - No where is Capt. Sullenberger mentioned in this article, so where did you come up with your complaint.
    "Travis" at 1:06 pm - What are you talking about? This article has nothing to do with replacing a fleet of planes??
    "Steve" at 1:09 pm - what has trains or jet fuel got to do with this story?

    And Big George (2:08 pm)– you are just a screaming ignorant racist.... as are several others (Jon in CA & Anonymous).

    February 24, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. Obama 2.0

    You meen there aint gonna be a bunch of Iraqi people there???

    February 24, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. hateYT

    now that's a REAL first lady.....unlike the she-boon that's currently occuping the space.

    February 24, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Sam Sixpack

    Will the speech be in English or Chinese?

    February 24, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |

    Pres. Obama run for the white house to make HISTORY a self-serving
    task he took on.....first the stimulus and tonight the Preachified speech no doublt to balance the budget....poor man confused to say the least...."good luck America" this man will flush the economy down the drain.


    February 24, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  7. Big George

    To "republicans hate America" – don't you mean you hate republicans? To not want to listen to Mr. Jindal, who happens to be an extremely intelligent gentleman, because he is a republican sounds like you're fairly uneducated. That's what I've deducted from most of t he democrat bloggers on the Ticker.

    February 24, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  8. more history tonight...

    Listen to Prres Obama voodoo economics tonight ...history America
    won't ever forget......


    February 24, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Republican

    The rich think of nothing but themselves and how they can get people like us to buy their garbage. I have a very wealthy person in my family that gives to charity at church and schools only to be recognized. I am out of a job and have had crisis in my own household and a hand to me or my family has never been seen. All I ever hear is how much gold and where they are going to put their money and upset because they do not qualify for a stimulus rebate. Yet brag about being a millionaire. I just tell it like it is. These people could care less about charity or family values. It is all a show. Trust me, I know first hand. This is what is wrong with our country. Yes they should pay more in taxes. I believe it is called luxury.

    February 24, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. yaaba

    I think it is great that President Obama have taken the time to recognize people that could be over look. Yes, there are a lot of problems and we as a country seem to focus all our time on the negative. I am very glad for those that have been invited to share in a great memorable night, have fun and enjoy.

    February 24, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  11. Boston Irish

    @ Dace – It is so great to have intelligent human beings with a heart and mind that love Americans and want to help them in the White House.

    Ahh, but before she had the chance to become First Lady, she felt no pride in her nationality at all. I doubt if she felt the "love" for her fellow Americans before her price was met – FIRST LADY!! Boy, she really set a high price on her "love and pride of country". Frankly, I think the price to pay was a bit on the high side.

    February 24, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. Johnny DC

    You are all incredibly naive if you think this has any other purpose than preparing for 2012. Is it a coincidence that the Obamas profiled 2 of their 3 choices from Florida, always considered a key state in what may very well be (if the economy unfortunately continues its decline) a closely contested election?

    "God Bless the first family! They're so sweet!" Naive. Politicians are all the same, and this proves he is no different.

    February 24, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. Eileen

    The Obamas being in the white house is a testament to how low this country has fallen. I don't want to hear anything Obama has to say. His speeches are all the same. Can't stand Michelle at all.

    February 24, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. Raj, Boston

    republicans hate america
    After hearing Obama's speech I will not watch Jindal speak either. I dont support the Republicans but just to set the record straight.. Jindal was born to Christian parents and is Christian himself. Im sure you dont want to look as ignorant as the rethuglicans :o)

    February 24, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Pete N PA

    Didn’t Michelle Obama mock the Bush tax rebate of $600? Should I feel good about the “tax cut” resulting in lunch money? She ought to invite some math majors to her box. Tax cuts + massive spending cannot = reducing the deficit by half.

    February 24, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  16. G.R.

    Dear anonymous,

    Racism stems from a deep insecurity and very low self-esteem. It is fueled by ignorance and the desperate need to feel superior to others. That is why most people that know you don't like you.

    February 24, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  17. charlie in Maine

    Dear Mario,

    Your question "Why is it that this Cpt. Sullenberger is being herald as a hero in every single politically charged speach? I mean, yes, the man made wise choices under the directon of a great air traffic controller, he landed the plane in an icy hudson river and no one person received major injury or death." is a great one here is my humble answer;

    President Obama identifies with this pilot because he was able to do with that airplane what he is trying to do with the economy. George W Bush and the Republicans are playing the part of the geese. They put the county in danger and the economy is in a free-fall. Obama is trying to land the plane with as little injury as possible. Not an easy job but it has to be done if we are to take off once again.

    February 24, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  18. Gop

    {qoute}Sue February 24th, 2009 2:40 pm ET

    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.{qoute}

    Well Sue need I point out that these rich people as you point out are indeed charitable with their millions and they do not need your President Obama to steal their wealth and give it to people like you that might not care to earn your own.

    Let me ask you Sue do you believe any money you earn is your own? Are is it you believe it belongs to the Government to divide it as they see fit?

    Yes Sue having a government steal your wealth is indeed fascist, or socialist as you point out, and it is a shame you either don’t care or just don’t see it because as long as it is someone else that is having their wealth taken you are just fine with that.

    Until I bet, Obama takes your wealth and you might not be so happy. Yes, I know that won’t happen because you are too lazy to create to your own wealth and would rather have Obama just hand someone’s earnings over to you.

    February 24, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  19. Mickie

    I wonder if it's too late to submit my name for part of his $60 million? And to Ray who thinks the stock market has fallen due to Obama - wake up and smell the roses – the crap was on the lawn when he took office.

    February 24, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. tcoffey

    Honestly, I can't believe some of the comments. The Obama's are trying their best to get America back on track. Small minded people like many of you are what is wrong with America today. Racial comments are totally uncalled for. Unless you are 100% native American, everyone immigrated here at some point in time or came aunwilling as a slave. Forget all this nonsense and give these people a chance just like every other president and his family have had. The Obama's have some great ideas, give them a chance to work and use your time and brain for more than blowing hot air.

    February 24, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  21. Citizen of the USA

    What is a this hog wash about/ Who really cares who is bring who? This is not a fashion show or the academy awards. If they want to be in the limelight them go on Larry King Or Glenn Beck show. What does their appearance have to do with getting our country rolling again. Ego tripping. Just a show. God help these people and first and foremost our country.

    February 24, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. Laverne

    @ big jerk, oh I mean big george: You must be interested in her, since you took the time to comment. Oh and by the way big george, I spelled your name with a little "g" because you obvious are a little man with a little mind!

    February 24, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. NY republican

    @republicans hate america – After that I would not be talking about other people "hating". Not listening to someone because he's a Muslim (or any other race, creed, life style, etc) is just WAY OUT OF LINE!!! I guess that would amke you a republican, too, huh!!

    February 24, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. NC cares

    To heck with these guest. Just get our country and jobs back. We live in the USA and have no say so. These leaders listen to all the foreign dignitaries before they listen to the struggling tax payors. Whose opinion really matters?

    February 24, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  25. Rev. Wright

    Still waiting...

    February 24, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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