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. jm

    I am no fan of President Obama but whomever made the snide comment about Mrs. Obama cheating on Barrak with three men was rude and out of line. No one should make comments like that about the first family without any basis in fact. Otherwise the comments are classless and in this case flat out wrong. Michelle is the first lady and should be treated with dignity and respect unless there is actual good reason to treat her otherwise. If she does something policy wise or says something you don't agree with go after her on that. Do not however, resort to baseless claims. It is obvious she loves her husband and her family. If someone were saying these things about Laura Bush or any other first lady I would have the same response.

    February 24, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  2. angrysob VA

    Is it 2013 – Your so right. I'm ashamed to say I know several Dems and let me tell you, I donate more in one year than all of them combined. Dems suck at donating an contributing. They want someone else to do it for them. Too busy hating conservatives I guess.

    February 24, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. roger in ga

    We need a real leader, one who will work for the people of this country.

    I only wish we could get back George Bush.

    Portland, I know CRACK will really mess up your mind but you must have ingested a dose of CRACK that was tainted with some really bad stuff to wish you had Former President G.W. Bush back.

    February 24, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  4. Oregon

    I find it so amusing the KKKublicans didn't say one thing about all the wasteful spending during the last 30 years of Republican rule. Yet, when the country finally get a true leader for the people, they're doing everything to obstruct him – which by the way isn't working.

    You people are just shooting yourself in the foot and the rest of the country think you're all dispicable. Get over yourselves you racists.

    February 24, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. arithmetic is liberal

    "Is it 2013 yet?"

    Yeah, nice stat, courtesy of Rush Limbaugh, who's big opening complaint on his radio show today was that people who fly in private business jets are now subject to the same searches as the common rabble.

    And charity, like it says in Corinthians, is given freely, not forced.
    Tithing doesn't count, because it's compulsory. But really nice try.

    And of course leave it to Jon in CA and Mike in Syracuse to say something compulsively stupid. Are you buys proud that you know how to spell Rev. Wright's name? Wow! 'A' for effort! I'm beginning to suspect that you two were separated at birth and are still sharing pieces of the same brain...

    February 24, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  6. Yolanda

    CNN it would have been appropirate to wait until the guest were actually in the First Lady's box (Michelle Obama) and not post a picture of the Former First Lady. You're getting more look Fox News.

    February 24, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Mother Goose

    Is Bush still president Charlie?

    February 24, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Anubis

    Jon in CA

    you are almost comical...yes Obama "borred future" assets to try and recover the tragedy that Bush policies put us in. Contemplating nationalization of banks wouldnt even be considered if the Banks did what they were supposed to do begin with.

    That like someone eating twinkies their entire life complaining about the cutting a doctor needs to perform giving him a heart bypass.

    Gimmie a break.

    February 24, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. Fuzzy Maine Coon & The Sherpa Mr. Mittens

    I hope that we won't see any more Country Music specials every other week now that Bush is gone. Then again, I like those Dixie Chicks. I read somewhere that Toby Keith is a Democrat. Man, I think I coughed up a ‘Country First’ freedom (French) fry – and I can't even remember when I ate it.

    February 24, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Darrell

    I hope HusseinsMyMiddleName doesn't let them down!

    February 24, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  11. Chris

    I hope he invited some People from the States of those Governors who said they didn't want the help he is trying to send them!!! It would be really nice to see how someone from New Orleans!!!

    February 24, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |

    Note to "White Female"–
    The reason why governors are turning down the stimulus money is because it sets up a system that will cost their states dearly once the federal funds are gone. In order to sustain the unemployment compensation that the feds are "giving" to them, they will have to place a higher tax which will, in turn, discourage businesses from coming into their states. When you take a money from someone else, you have to think about what the result will be. Have you ever borrowed money from a friend only to have it ruin the relationship? Ever see people on Judge Judy fighting because they thought the money they got from someone had no strings attached? Not many people understand that concept. That is why we are in the mortgage mess.
    By the way, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is NOT a white "slave master". He was born Piyush Jindal to Indian immigrants. Your statement was racist.

    February 24, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. Texas

    To ray ray:
    A great deal happened in between the day when Obama was elected and now. How can he be responsible for the economy when he was not even in office for another 50+ days after being elected?

    Regardless of who won the election, the market has to hit bottom before it starts to rebound.

    So to try to write off what Obama has done since taking office (SCHIP, Lily Ledbetter, etc) because of the stock market is RIDICULOUS.

    February 24, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. OMG PEOPLE!!!!!!

    Ok, I am a fan of neither the past president nor the current one. What I love hearing is how George W did this and Obama is doing this, well what the economic crisis comes down to is not what any or the president's did or are trying to do. It all boils down to PRIVATELY OWNED companies greed. Wall st is not owned by the Government it is owned by businesses which made poor decisions, and lucky for us we now have a president that is willing to use OUR tax money to bail out their poor business decisions/practices. What I really want to know is if these big business are getting all this money to get out of financial trouble, can someone give me about $50k to fix my problems, which, by the way, were caused by my making some not so great decisions? I'm sure that extra $15.00 a week in tax savings is gonna help out immensily, Give me a break.

    February 24, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. yawn

    not worth reading about, how about peoples lives that are wrecked, foreclosure, layoffs, retirement gone

    so much other to inform the public about

    February 24, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  16. Matthew, Detroit


    February 24, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Eric

    John in CA: You are confused, bush is the one who doubled the national debt. Are you lying or ill informed?

    February 24, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. baker

    Will any one mention that Captain Sullenberger has had his pay cut by 40% and his pension is now worth pennies on the dollar?

    February 24, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. Fuzzy Maine Coon & The Sherpa Mr. Mittens

    republicans hate america February 24th, 2009 2:25 pm ET
    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
    Attacking a fellow American because you believe that he is a Muslim only places you at the level of McCain/Palin supporters who opposed President Obama in a similar way. Don't sink to their level.


    February 24, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  20. Marcus

    ***COPY***Eileen February 24th, 2009 3:08 pm ET
    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.

    How old are you, like 90? Sounds like you need a hug...or a ride back to that rock you crawled from under. Give me a call and I'll gladly pay the trip for you and that mule you rode here on! BTW welcome to the new generation's America!!!!!!!!!!

    February 24, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. hb

    And I thought we got rid of the moron Repuglicans.

    Guess not.

    Go back to your hole now. Scoot scoot.

    February 24, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. worriedmom

    Let's see what he has to say before we judge him. But I can tell you that I hope he will do more for everyone and not just "selected" individuals. After all, it is our money that he is dealing with!

    February 24, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. Joyce

    I don't get it. You've had a 2 year election. One guy won with huge numbers and you're still bickering?
    Please know that the world is sighing in relief (I am sure I now get a "we don't care what the rest of the world thinks remark....) You are a big player in this world (so you should care!) And now you're finally talking to the rest of that world again and started the healing.
    Your current president didn't create this economic mess. The old ways obviously didn't work. So you need a new way!
    Let them try before you start telling eachother how wrong the other is. Let's all (the entire world!) hang in there, get our acts together, fix this economic mess TOGETHER, and move on! Judge Obama after atleast one year, doesn't he deserve atleast that?

    February 24, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Gop

    Obama will say the same thing he does in every speech. He will tell us he is trying to fix the problem that was caused by Bush.

    He will then say Bush spent our money but he will spend more of it because that is the only way to fix the problem he did not cause.

    Every time he speaks he will say hey don’t blame me it was Bush that did this. And no matter how many speeches he gives he will blame it on Bush and the greedy bankers.

    In fact nothing will be his fault or the fault of any Democrat because lets face it they do no wrong. Only the evil Republicans are to blame.

    4 years from now when things are just as bad or worst he will tell us he needs 4 more years because it took Bush 8 to make the mess and he needs 8 to fix it.

    So get ready for excuse after excuse and finger pointing from Obama because were in for 4 years of this crap.

    February 24, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  25. Mari

    @ WORRIEDMOM........ THANKS for your comment! I have in the past chastised you for your conservative comments, but I have to agree with you!

    Sadly, the GOP-far-right is obstructing, complaining, criticizing, spewing all the vile they can!

    We've heard from the "Faux News" people and AM radio, the LIE about the "$5 billion" for ACORN........ they are lying and ignorant people just take their word. Even though IF people would bother to read about the money of the Stimulus and where it is going on: recovery.gov You would learn the TRUTH.

    I keep saying that what DISTURBS me the most is that the far-right claim to be Christian........... how are lies, Christian? How is hate, criticism, meanness, fear-mongering, etc., Christian values?

    February 24, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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