(CNN) — The White House has announced the names of the more than two dozen guests who will join first lady Michelle Obama at the president's address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.
The list includes a range of political supporters, good Samaritans, members of the military, students, and citizens adversely affected by the nations flailing economy.
The White House highlighted three guests in particular earlier Tuesday, including 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, a student at the J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, South Carolina, was invited after a letter she sent 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 also highlighted Leonard Abess Jr., a Miami banker who gave away $60 million of proceeds he received over the sale of shares of City National Bank in Florida. Abess demonstrates the kind of "responsibility" the president has called for from high-profile financial CEOs, the White House said.
Other guests of the first lady Tuesday night include injured Afghanistan veteran Spc. Jonathan N. James, equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, Blake Jones - the co-founder and president of a solar electric company.
Non-profit leaders, college students, and police and firefighters will also be in attendance with the first lady.
But the guest list doesn't just include citizen-heroes. The president and first lady have also invited two Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas - one of the president's key Republican allies among the nation's governors in passing the massive $787 billion stimulus bill - and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a key Democratic governor whose state is among the hardest hit by the economic downturn.
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.
It has also become customary for the president to acknowledge a handful of guests sitting in the box during his speech, especially those who have a particularly compelling story or illustrate a point he is trying to make.
Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an expansive guest list of her own, including hero-U.S. Airways pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and several other crew members of flight 1549.