February 24th, 2009
03:32 PM ET
14 years ago

Three guests in first lady box revealed

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/24/art.firstlady.gi.jpg caption=" 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. rena

    All you fools who are judging Obama by the dropping of the stock markets are ignorant and need teaching. The markets are dropping because of the foolishness our so called leaders are showing. They can't come together to save their own lives, just like most of us on this blog is just as divided. Bush is the real reason the economy and markets are crashing. Don't try to dump this mess on the incoming President as though he was the one who made all the past 8 years decisions. Give this man a chance just like most of you idiots gave your past President. He's not going to clean this up over night or the next 2 years. Did it take Bush one month to do the damage?

    People please stop acting like children and realize that families are hurting due to mess we are in. While most of you are spewing your hate you need to be praying, not only for others but mostly for yourselves from what I have read on this blog.

    February 24, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  2. Lauren

    What you posted below has to be one of the most logical comments on the ticker. THANK YOU. It is too bad more states can not wake up, once they take this money, and hand it all out, it will soon dry up. THEN, they will have to come up with the funds by raising taxes, or cutting back all that they gave away, putting them right back where they were on day one.

    JUSTMEE February 24th, 2009 4:11 pm ET
    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

    February 24, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  3. Rick

    Three guests? Let me guess........Mahmoud Achmadenijad, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro?

    February 24, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  4. NoLeftTurn

    @white female
    Check your own backyard for racism before you accuse others you know nothing about.. The South Carolina State Dept of Education has been controlled by Democrats for years and the education system is going down the drain. In fact, one former head of the state ed dept was being considered as a cabinet member by Obama.

    February 24, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. Rushustler

    Hey all you republicans,have you checked out the centerfold of your latest subscription of Rushustler?It features Rush and his golden microphone and a chimp.You should really enjoy it.

    February 24, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  6. GOP=Geriatric Obstructionist Pityparty

    CNN, we are trying to forget the shrub's nightmare error, do you have to keep reminding of us of them with pics of what's her name?

    February 24, 2009 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  7. JSU-TIGER99

    I am so glad she pick the right people instead of having all the stars setting up there like they are making a change.. I love the FIRST LADY.

    February 24, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  8. Mari

    Wow........ the far-right comments are sick to say the least. BUT.......... NONE of you, from the far-right have EVER answered my question:


    AND SPENDING ......$10 BILLION......A......MONTH IN IRAQ??????


    ANY ANSWERS???????????????? Hypocrites!

    February 24, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  9. Mike

    What it seems to me is that the End Of The World is Near. There is so much hatred among Americans. I thought it was more of the foreign countries who had more hatred toward us but its not. We have more hatred towards each other than in country on the planet and thats sad. To argue over the color of ones skin and what this man has done in 30 days and not look back at the corruption in Washington that has been going on for 8 years is pathetic. A wake up call has come from above and once we stop looking at what color a person skin is and its gonna be whoever's fault instead of looking within our souls this country will never be together.

    February 24, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  10. Troubled Atlantan

    Reading some of these comments is heartbreaking. People are hurting and it seems that so many people have so much hate in their hearts. If you really did some critical thinking, you would be able to figure out that some people were not being irresponsible but they were tricked. If you lived in a project and the powers to be come tell you that your home is being torn down, but we are going to help you get a house. What would you do? Think before you answer? Your answer will show just how intelligent you really are.

    A Pastor once told his congregation which I was a part of, that we all talk about what we will do when our ship comes in. He stated what we should do is do what we can with what we have. He was not talking about tithes and offerings. I have a small non-profit that I fund from my small business. I try to give from the abundance of my paddle boat since I don't have a ship. And for those of you that are saying, she can afford to give, I make about $25,000 a year, since owning my own business. If each of us could help just one person throughout the year, pay a utility bill, buy some medication, give someone a smile, you would be surprised how much better your world would be.

    People are Hurting! It is time to stop hating, stop blaming, and step up to the plate. Hit a home run. I know us Americans can do it!

    February 24, 2009 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  11. Lush Limprick is the real RNC chairman!


    If you read the bill you would know that Jindal and Sanford are lying.

    There is NO provision that states a state MUST continue paying unemployment to part-time folks after the money is gone. The end of the qualification time is 12/31/09 and the end of the actual distribution must end by 7/31/10.

    Get the facts straight and not from the bald, bloated bonehead. The repubs just want the unemployed to suffer so they can score political points.

    February 24, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  12. cocosolo in MO.

    I bet ole G Dud wont be there.

    February 24, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  13. wing nuts abound

    Jon in Ca February 24th, 2009 12:53 pm ET

    Where's Oprah and Rev Wright? Don't they deserve to have box seats at this event???

    you really should learn some new lines. It is people like you that have put this country in the mess it is in. grow a brain

    February 24, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  14. Bud Burgoon-Clark

    WOW! The ignorance and vitriolic racism of some of these comments is really appalling.

    February 24, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
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