February 24th, 2009
08:04 PM ET
11 years ago

White House reveals first lady’s guests

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 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.

(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.

Filed under: Michelle Obama
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Jan in MI

    I can not believe how mean the bloggers are. It's OK to disagree with people, but to call someone UGLY. Now that's disgraceful

    Grow Up People......

    We gave Bush 8 years, the least we can do is give Obama 6 months before we criticize what he's doing.

    February 24, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  2. Joe, you're a pig.

    When's the last time you looked inside yourself? There's your ugly.

    February 24, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  3. Mark in CA

    RE > $$ travel + $$ security detail + $$ food/accomodations x 12 = waste of taxpayer money feeding the ego of two chicago scheisters.

    Hummm... 120k Men sailing to Iraq ...$$Travel + $$Food + $$toys ...

    February 24, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  4. Flex

    We need to re-order time. Forget B.C. and A.C. We need Before Obama, and then After Obama. Maybe we could get Obama elected for 3 terms?! Or replace a grant or a Franklin with Obama!

    February 24, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  5. bush 09


    February 24, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  6. K Fergus

    I think it is time to stop criticizing one of the most intelligent president's the country has ever had. I thank God the country didn't blow up (literally) under the misguided and foolish leadership of G.W. Bush and his Republican nay sayers!!! Thank God America has a thoughtful, intelligent, respectful leader who truly understands the plight of the average man. Too long have politicians previously in power, only understood the needs of the rich!!

    February 24, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  7. Chris

    But where are the jobs? Especially those in the private sector, which is where the economy grows ...... or dies! Government jobs do nothing but eat up more taxes dollars, summer jobs for teens does the same, as does any temporary job coming from this stimulus. Wake up people, wake up politicians, make American jobs for American citizens and quit giving handouts to those who are not going to work.

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

    President Obama and the First Lady are inviting guest similar to what other preceding President's have done. So, where was all the whining when Bush invited guest to hear his speech.

    Also, Governor Jindal call for bipartisanship is a joke. President Obama sought bipartisanship with the Republican party, but they had their own agenda at hand. Jindal states he's not interested in the 2012 bid for Presidency, but the Republican party is looking for the coming out party (RNC Steele and Jindal) to attract the young – middle generation. Gindal you need to take care of the Katrina aftermath and accept the stimulus funds. I do not think any Governor should be given the opportunity to pick and choose what part of the package suits there state. Accept the entire package or nothing at all.

    February 24, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  9. Sharon

    Those that are so impatient are part of the reason President Obama is in the "fine mess" he's in....Bush cried wolf and gimmie gimmie gimmie,.....and the republicans that controlled the house and senate by golly gave it to him...and gave...and gave...and gave.......but don't ask for anything if you ain't got anything, cause you ain't gettin!!!!!!!

    February 24, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  10. once upon a horse

    wow sure didn't take the haters long to start spouting off here...well go right ahead becasue the good thing about it is you still have 4 to maybe 8 years to keep on spouting.......LOL

    February 24, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |

    I hope that we get another female Senator from the White House in four years to eight years. She would make a great Senator.

    February 24, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. Kim

    I see that the RETHUGLICANS are still haters!! GET WELL SOON!!!

    February 24, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  13. Ula Nejad Sacramento, Ca

    Not only she is ugly, she is corrupt like her husband.

    February 24, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. Patricia

    Why is the far right so hateful? It is despicable the way in which they're behaving. We finally have a President who is cerebral, in touch and yes, tough, and it's just eating the hearts out of these right wing nut jobs.

    February 24, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  15. MSNBC News

    This is the luckiest woman in the world! She gets to wake up next to "the One" every morning!

    February 24, 2009 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |

    Jon in Ca February 24th, 2009 6:22 pm ET

    Michelle, why no love for Rev Wright?? I mean the guy married you, baptized your girls. What gives??
    I would disown him too!

    February 24, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |

    Farrell, Houston, Tx February 24th, 2009 7:00 pm ET

    Michelle should open a web site for women only on "HOW TO FIND A GREAT MAN LIKE PRESIDENT OBAMA" but then again some of us women need to do some work on ourselves first to walk in her shoes.
    You're so right! First Lady Michelle is a force to be reckoned with.

    February 24, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  18. Lost in Texas Forever

    you can tell who lost the election and who the sore losers are. The Republicans, esp. the ones on the REAL far right have no other outlet than to come to news sites like this and vent and post ugly things. Some of the stuff they post is so ignorant that it is downright funny. And trust me the posts on FoxNews sites are worse than the ones here because it appeals more to their kind. These folks can find negative in ANYTHING the president, his wife or any Democrat does so just sit back and enjoy it folks. It's gonna be a LONG ride!

    February 24, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |

    Momma T in MD February 24th, 2009 7:25 pm ET

    It will be interesting to see who she has invited. Will they all be African Americans or will she have invited some of us lowly Caucasians?
    You are pitiful!

    February 24, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  20. Missy

    Denise Quinton–Do you read anyhting else on this site? Perhaps you missed the article about John McCain stating that Defense spending cannot continue as it has been–I believe he called it a "train wreck."

    This is why money needs invested in education so that our children can learn to be critical thinkers–not just narrow minded drones.

    I know that Bush/Cheney did sooo much to help our soldiers/veterans. They talked a big talk but never really helped at all. Our soldiers deserve the very best of everything including pay, health care, education and housing. They don't deserve substandard housing conditions while they are awaiting medical treatment at Walter Reed. They don't need their government to deny for over ten years that their ailments were not related to their service in the first Bush v. Hussein. They don't deserve to have their families struggling to eat and keep a roof over their heads while they are off fighting ill-conceived wars–putting their lives on the line every day.

    They need someone to care about their well-being and I have no doubt that President Obama will do more for them than Bush ever did. We can get the money to do this by not launching wars everytime there is a Republican administration. This is no coincidence by the way. Dick Cheney has made his fortune in the defense industry–he benefits from war. The Bushes have made their fortune in oil–precisely why this country has such a keen interest in the middle east and the reason alternative forms of energy have been stifled and ignored since the oil crisis of the 70's. They don't want you to quit buying their overpriced oil.

    Lastly, they don't want you to be educated or else you might start to question their motives. The people of this country are starting to actually pay attention to what their elected officials are doing and Obama actually encourages this participation. That scares the Republicans to death. Maybe they'll be the next ones standing on the unemployment line. One can only hope.

    February 24, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. lillyahoo

    I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that a lot of the GOP are seriously suffering from the decision of their Great One Ronald Reagan to close down the government-funded mental institutions. For their sake, I surely hope that Obama includes mental health coverage in his health care reform.

    February 24, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  22. Independent

    Is it bad for me to LOVE the fact that these so called Republicans are sooooo ANGRY and this is eating them up? Guess what? I'm LOVING it!!! LMAO!

    February 24, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  23. C.S.A republicans

    @Bipartisan.Yes I know that, thank you.The new leaders of the Confederacy are Republicans and I am not a member of them.I use this as sarcasm toward them because they are still trying to win the civil war and bring back slavery in the form of union busting and anti worker practices.

    February 25, 2009 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
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