(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.
(CNN) – President Obama’s speech Tuesday night will mark the 220th annual message from a U.S. president to Congress.
The vast majority of these presidential messages were not delivered in person as a speech to lawmakers. Although Presidents George Washington and John Adams delivered the annual message as speeches, Thomas Jefferson ended the tradition — the nation’s third chief executive said it was too similar to the British practice of the king addressing parliament. The annual message was delivered in written form until 1913, when Woodrow Wilson resumed delivering the message as a speech before Congress.
Obama’s address Tuesday will mark the 76th time a U.S. president has relayed his message to legislators by speaking in person.
WASHINGTON (CNN) –- Some of the best seats in the House of Representatives chamber at President Obama’s first address to Congress Tuesday night will be reserved for members of the Supreme Court. But despite being guaranteed front-row center seats, the jurists frequently decide to skip the event entirely.
Attendance at presidential annual messages by the nine-member Supreme Court has not exceeded six since at least 1995. At each address from 2000 through 2008, there were fewer justices in attendance than the five required to pass a majority opinion on the high court.
Court attendance has improved since Chief Justice John Roberts was sworn-in in September 2005. Four justices were in attendance for each address delivered from 2006 through 2008. Among those was Justice Samuel Alito, who attended his first address as a member of the Supreme Court in 2006, just hours after winning Senate confirmation.
(CNN) – The concept of State of the Union addresses and annual presidential messages to Congress has its roots in the British monarchy.
Under that system, the king or queen delivers a speech from the throne at the opening session of Parliament. The founding fathers modified and adopted the practice for use in the United States.
George Washington delivered the first “annual message” to Congress in 1790 at Federal Hall in New York. John Adams continued the practice. However, Thomas Jefferson ended the practice of delivering the speech in person in 1801, saying that the elaborate ceremony, complete with a “president’s throne,” too closely resembled a king addressing his subjects. He instead opted for a written message.
Woodrow Wilson resumed the practice of delivering the message as a speech before Congress in 1913. Franklin Roosevelt’s annual message to Congress in 1941 was the first to be referred to as a “State of the Union” address.
(CNN) – President Obama will become the first African American in history to address a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.
Although a number of prominent black officials from around the globe, including Nelson Mandela in 1990 and 1994 and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006, have addressed Congress in the past, no African American has ever been tapped to address both houses of Congress from the chamber of the House of Representatives, as Obama will do Tuesday.
Technically, only U.S. Presidents can deliver a solo address before a joint session, which is an actual working session of Congress, whereas prominent Americans and foreign heads of state are invited to address joint meetings, which are less formal gatherings.
(CNN) – This year, the term “State of the Union” refers only to the new CNN program anchored by John King, not to President Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
Americans may have gotten used to hearing the recognizable phrase over the years, but a new president’s first speech to Congress has not been called a "State of the Union” since 1977. Instead, the event often is referred to simply as a “message” or address to Congress, sometimes on a specific policy topic.
Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each kicked off their terms with an “economic message.” Jimmy Carter delivered an address on energy policy at the start of his term in 1977. In 1989, George H.W. Bush called his first speech to a joint session of Congress, "Building a Better America."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama’s speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress will fulfill his constitutional duty to brief lawmakers on the “state of the union.”
According to Article II, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution, "He [the President] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."