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. 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!!

    🙂 And me a Democrat, sorry about the spelling error 🙂

    February 24, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. Andy

    The Obama lovefest continues. Ask not what you can do for yourself but what the govt will do for you at taxpayer expense.

    February 24, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  3. Surviving in the Carolinas

    Who really cares? All talk and no action.

    February 24, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. Rick Sutter

    Knuckle-dragging Obamites eat this stuff up!

    February 24, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. Liberal-Hater

    Jackie I think it`s funny that you would talk about snide comments from the GOP when all I see on this forum,even since the election,snide comments from the DNC about George W Bush and Sarah Palin.Even after your landslide election in November you thugs are still spewing your hatred.Give it a rest already

    February 24, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  6. Proud Texas Teacher

    TO: republicans hate america who wrote - 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.

    Jindal was Hindu - Now is Catholic. Get your facts straight before you make commentary, I'm a fan of Jindal or Republicans, I just don't like it when bigotry shows! Go Obama!

    February 24, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. Liberal-Hater

    NY Republican,anything,ANYTHING that contains Michelle Obama`S name is news to these people.You might as well call her Madam President since we hear about her on the same level that we hear about Barack,we NEVER heard about Laura nearly as much as we hear about Michelle.Just more proof of the media`s love affair with Barack Obama.It`s ridiculous

    February 24, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  8. Proud Texas Teacher

    Okay - typo

    should have read I'm not a fan of ...

    What happens when you don't proofread. 🙂

    February 24, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. NY republican

    Sue – you would be surprised what "the rich" and "republicans" do for their communities. It's just not usually bragged about, it's just done.

    February 24, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. Happy 2009!!

    Jon in CA: you're bitter!

    The Obamas have done much more in their 30 plus days in office than the previous president did in 8 years...

    February 24, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. jwayne

    wow: i am so tired of people complaining, do you not have any faith in God, i am a black man and im happy that we have a president of color but my faith is not in man nor him, my faith is in God, yes i never had a millon dollar but i never ask for handouts either, thank God for his grace and mercy towwards us, we are back in the land wear God delievered us out of when he open the red sea all we do is complain about every thing, start praying that mr. President let God use him to help us get out the mess we are facing today God bless the president and the entire USA

    February 24, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  12. WhoCares?


    Stock Market drops to 7105 this morning.

    When Obama was elected President (11/5/08) it was 9100.

    2000 points (22%) gone – poof – disappeared. THANKS OBAMA!"

    Are you seriously this dimwitted? God, Americans love to wallow in their own ignorance.

    February 24, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Republican are ankle biters

    Why this picture of a garden tool?

    February 24, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. Is it 2013 yet?

    Sue 2:40 pm, I'll write this real slow so you can comprehend, there have been several studies done by independent groups and ALL OF THEM HAVE CONCLUDED that Conservatives/Republicans give FAR, FAR more TIME, MONEY and EFFORT to charitable causes than liberals/Democrats and it is NOT even close.

    What other pearls of wisdom you got?

    The FACT is genius, is that Liberals/Democrats are good at spending OUR money and that includes you "honey".

    Barry is one and done.

    February 24, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |

    Big George: "I don't know of anyone even remotely interested in her except the koolaid drinkers and people of color."

    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".

    Don't you just LOVE what Eric Holder had to say about America having COWARDS? Here are two prime examples of (a) White racism, (b) narrow-mindedness that was rejected in the last election that DEFINE such cowardice. No doubt these two commentators wouldn't know the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution if if were put in their faces. History (BTW – of which Michelle ** WILL ** be a part of and NOT these two and other buffoons !) will reveal the truth about Obama and his lady and about Jindal (who, BTW, is CATHOLIC – read the CNN article, idiot!). That history is likely to be ** VERY ** favorable when compared against the last Administration and the Republican-led Congress.

    Oh yeah... This is from a card carrying Black Republican !

    February 24, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. muffy

    No matter the topic there is always a revolting, nasty Repug
    who has to say something about the Obamas. Is their jealousy ever going to go away? What a mean, hateful group they are and I hope it continues because they are only cutting off their long noses to spite their faces. Good for us!!

    McCain isn't too green with envy is he??? What a creep he is.

    February 24, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. Puzzled

    I can't believe some of the stuff being posted on this blog. If hate was a crime you'd be under the jail. Eileen, please elaborate on your statement. How is the Obama's being in the White house a testament of how low this country has gone? I think you have this and starting unjust wars and turning a blind eye to domestic issues on American soil for the past 8 years confused.

    February 24, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  18. NY republican

    @ J – I agree this man should get a medal. He seems the kind of guy that would just say "I was just doin' my job", though. Anyway, the next time you need to look for heroes, look no farther than your local police force, firemen, etc. They put it "on the line" every day for little or no thanks. There's where the medals should go. It takes something special to do that EVERY DAY!!
    Thanks to the Men and Women in uniform, be it camoflage, or blue, professional and especially volunteer!!

    February 24, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. steve

    I thought maybe they'd invite some illegal alien relatives to come along.

    February 24, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  20. Gop

    Hey Proud Texas Teacher! one of the few times I ever agree with you.

    But If you agree with Obamas agenda!

    you are indeed a very poor teacher, and I would hope you do not try to get your students to buy into your views.

    You might like the idea of this country going down the tubes in order to promote yours and Obama’s socialist agenda but some of us enjoy freedom and want that for our children as well.

    February 24, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. Pam

    I find it interesting that someone would comment about the Economy being tied to Obama, when he has been in office for about 30 days. I would say that a person would lack discernment about economic issues when the banking issues stem from the lack of regulaton of the former President for eight years. Perhaps getting involved in a war of no end would have something more to do with it.

    February 24, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. insanity

    To Liberal-Hater,

    The comments you see in this forum is from everyday Americans, not DNC. Whereas the GOP is really making those stupid comments.

    You seem to be a Sarah Palin fan. No one can expect intelligence from a person who idolizes "un-intelligence. "

    February 24, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. NY republican

    @ Liberal-Hater – I could not agree more, except 53% of the popular vote is hardly a "landslide". They just act like it was.

    February 24, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  24. jc from LA

    Steve Wrote:

    What ever happened to the good old days ?
    Back in the day presidents use to travel by trains.

    Send me a copy of your comment saying this same thing when Bush was in office and then I will listen to you.........NOW you want to talk cutbacks....?? Where's your comment about cutbacks when Bush was spending billions on that trumped up war??

    February 24, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. Gop

    Don't worry Proud Texas Teacher, We here know you are no fan of any Republican or freedom of Americans.

    Most here will understand you are a socialist and will do your best to promote it and anything Obama does that takes away our rights as free Americans.

    You are proof Government schooling is the worst thing for our young children to go to.

    February 24, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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