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. NY republican

    @ Liberal-Hater – Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize she is the new Ms. Clinton :)

    February 24, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  2. EAS

    Liberal-Hater February 24th, 2009 3:24 pm ET

    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
    /////
    We did not hear about Laura because she was not as active as Mrs. Obama. She is giving her time freely and that is called "community service". Something you've probably never heard of.

    February 24, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. Joan

    How much you want to bet, these that are sitting with her tonight are black.

    February 24, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. insanity

    Liberal-Hater February 24th, 2009 3:24 pm ET

    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
    -------------------------------

    You truly are a moron. The first lady is doing what she can, within the confines of her capacity to help out her husband to save the economy.
    Just because Mrs Bush didn't do it, doesn't mean Mrs Obama shouldn't. I'm a big fan of Laura, and she has her own personality.
    A GOP idiot like you wouldn't know such distinctions because you morons want everyone to follow your dumb ideology.

    February 24, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. C W

    Who cares? blames the stock market dropping on Obama. This correction to the over-inflated market has been years in the making. And maybe perhaps it's down because those holding worthless paper know they are about to be outed and want to get out now. Or regular folks are panicking as they see banks and other financial institutions take their bailout money and instead of loosening credit and helping their country, they are selfishly pocketing what they can and make a run for it.

    February 24, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Jonita

    Charlie in Maine Bravo,bravo,bravo....I'm clapping....

    February 24, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Jon in Ca

    Happy 2009! says,

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

    YES – like double the national debt and contemplate nationalizing banks. It would have take Bush DECADES to do what Obama has done in days.

    Proud of this??

    February 24, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  8. RJ

    To Eileen-
    You have got to be miserable under that white rob of yours. You'll feel so much better once you get out of it!

    February 24, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. C W

    Steve is right: Where's all the GOP outrage and "He's a Muslim" and "He's not American" about Jindal? Ah, but the GOP is hoping he'll attract the minority vote .... I get it!

    Boy, the GOP is pathetic!

    February 24, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  10. RJ

    To WhoCares?
    You have got to be miserable under that white rob of yours. You'll feel so much better once you get out of it!

    February 24, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. NY republican

    To Proud Texas Teacher – I almost never agree with you but today must be a red letter day!!! A Democrat and a Republican are agreeing!!! At least to the need to stamp out bigotry in all it's forms.
    P.S. Thanks for the education on Mr. Jindal's background.

    February 24, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  12. WI Cheesehead

    Real soon GOP will start saying DEMs are not tough on crime but they won't remind you that crime goes up wrought by the tough times they choose to delay, deny, do nothing about.

    February 24, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. C W

    Hey, since Piyush "Bobby" Jindal's parents are Hindu, doesn't that mean Gov. Jindal is also Hindu (his conversion to Catholicism notwithstanding)? Wait, what's worse: Him being a radical Punjabi Hindu terrorist or someone who takes his marching orders from the Vatican?

    Before everyone gets their knickers in a knot, I'm being totally facetious here, pointing out the fact just how hypocritical the GOP is when it comes to trying to smear people – unless, of course, they think those people will help them politically.

    February 24, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. RJ

    To Big George
    You have got to be miserable under that white rob of yours. You'll feel so much better once you get out of it!

    February 24, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. fella from Chicago

    Will the illegal auntie from Boston be there? How about the half-brother from Kenya who gets into knife fights to survive in the ghetto? Don't be a hypocrite Barack, bring them all.

    February 24, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Unbelievable change

    As the stock market sinks so do Obama's approval ratings...

    February 24, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. NY republican

    Talk about "red letter day" I'm agreeing with way to many people here!!!
    Time for a medication check I think. Is there a doctor in the house? :)

    February 24, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Jasmine in Germany

    The three mentioned are wonderful choices, as is the one mentioned for the Speaker's House Gallery Box.

    February 24, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. Jon in Ca

    Who Cares? blathers,

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

    LOL – yeah I guess the Econ Texts which discuss the Stock Market as a leading indicater for the economy is crapola?

    Gee, here I thought the market was a barometer of company performance, Fed Monetary Policy, and Government legislation.

    WHO KNEW fundamental economics would be poo-poo'd by obamabots?

    February 24, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. Gary

    The guests that the Obamas need to have: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Micheal Bloomberg, Robert Rubin...there is no time for politiics when the country's financial situation is such a mess. We need good fiscally responsible strategies to fix it. We can't afford to borrow trillions of dollars against our children's future because we are too weak to deal with a recession of our own making. We need to cut spending and balance the budget, not waste taxpayer money on Nancy Pelosi's pork projects. This last month has been awful. I never thought that Obama and the Democrats could waste more money than George Bush, but apparently their strategy is to do just that. They want to waste more tax dollars in the first 8 weeks than Bush did in the last 8 years (and that was an irresponsible 8 years!). I am speechless and ashamed of our leaders.

    February 24, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  21. The man you love to hate

    Is Bush still president?

    February 24, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Gary

    The guests that the Obamas need to have: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Micheal Bloomberg, Robert Rubin...there is no time for politiics when the country's financial situation is such a mess. We need good fiscally responsible strategies to fix it. We can't afford to borrow trillions of dollars against our children's future because we are too weak to deal with a recession of our own making. We need to cut spending and balance the budget, not waste taxpayer money on Nancy Pelosi's pork projects. This last month has been awful. I never thought that Obama and the Democrats could waste more money than George Bush, but apparently their strategy is to do just that. They want to waste more tax dollars in the first 8 weeks than Bush did in the last 8 years (and that was an irresponsible 8 years!). I am speechless and ashamed of our leaders.

    February 24, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Guess who

    Is it 2013 yet?

    That's funny, because every conservative that I know is worried about their own financial situation. There is a pronounced "let them eat cake" mentality and the "trickle down" occurred when they used the restroom. Other pearls, let's see? Last 3 out of 4 Presidents during recessions, Republicans! Presidents that were deemed good for the Economy by Forbes? Clinton, Kennedy, Reagan, and Johnson. Most pain-in-the-ass bloggers? Look in the mirror.

    February 24, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Al, California

    ...and why I see on photo Laura Bush who could not bring to sense her criminal husband?

    February 24, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. Wanda in Montana

    The hatred from the bitter anti-liberals amazes me. I don't know why it should after the Clinton years. I'd hoped that somehow they'd grow up especially after 8 years of deeply embarrassing "leadership" by George W. Bush. I guess some people just love to hate and hate to love.

    This is a simple little story about guests in the First Lady's box and some people have nothing but ridiculous hatred to add. The flurry of Republicans frantically waving their arms in the air and shouting incoherent jibberish on TV must be having an adverse effect on their mental health.

    February 24, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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