(CNN) - For more than 30 years, a handful of lucky individuals are chosen to sit with the first lady during the State of the Union address.
Some are heroes, others are smiling examples of a president's policies. Still more represent small businesses or local school programs in small towns in politically important states.
How did the tradition begin?
In 1982, Lenny Skutnik, a government employee, became the first person to be invited to the presidential box as a guest of the President and the first lady at the State of the Union address.
Skutnik was picked by President Ronald Reagan just days after he dove into the icy Potomac River to rescue a passenger from a deadly airline crash in January 1982.
Reagan used Skutnik's heroism to make a point about the American spirit.
"Just two weeks ago, in the midst of a terrible tragedy on the Potomac, we saw again the spirit of American heroism at its finest, the heroism of dedicated rescue workers saving crash victims from icy waters," Reagan said. "We saw the heroism of one of our young government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety."
Since, each guest is selected to illustrate a point a President hopes to make during the annual speech to Congress.
Imagery of wounded soldiers, brave children, or everyday Americans who have achieved, endured or, like Skutnik, acted selflessly is used to strengthen the narrative.
This year, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing and the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, will be granted the honor.
Openly gay former NBA player Jason Collins will also be joining the first lady for the speech, a nod to President Barack Obama's focus on gay rights in the midst of Russia's anti-gay laws and the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Members of Congress also highlight issues important to them with who they invite to the State of the Union address.
While some bring their spouses, others bring those who illustrate policies important to them.
For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, will bring an 11-year-old political activist. And Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, and Charles Rangel, D-New York, will bring family members of Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen being held in North Korea.