Designated survivor revealed as education secretary Miguel Cardona

The task went to then-Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh last year and to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in 2022

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
,Clémence Michallon
Friday 08 March 2024 03:02 GMT
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Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has been revealed as this year’s designated survivor for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

Every year, at least one Cabinet member doesn’t attend the State of the Union in order to preserve the Constitutional line of succession.

Last year, that task went to then-Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and, in 2022, to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Most people in the order of presidential succession find themselves in the same place at the same time during the speech. The designated survivor—who must remain in a different location—is a way to ensure the continuity of power should a calamity strike the Capitol.

The official presidential order of succession includes 18 people: the vice president, the speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, 14 secretaries, and the attorney general. The designated survivor is typically chosen among the secretaries and the attorney general.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was the designated survivor during the 2024 State of the Union
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was the designated survivor during the 2024 State of the Union (Getty Images)

The practice of picking a designated survivor is thought to date back to the Cold War, specifically the late 1950s—though according to the National Constitution Center, the federal government didn’t publicly acknowledge it until 1981.

Back in 2016, Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for Barack Obama, told The Ringer that who gets picked as designated survivor partly depends on how prominently their department features in the State of the Union speech.

“Sometimes the designated survivor is chosen based on, ‘Are their programs or policies going to be a highlight of the State of the Union?’” Favreau told the website. “I remember years where education would be a big deal in the speech and therefore Arne Duncan, who was the education secretary at the time, could not be the designated survivor.”

The concept even inspired an ABC series titled Designated Survivor, which aired on ABC and then Netflix for a total of three seasons between 2016 and 2019.

Former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was the designated survivor during George W Bush’s State of the Union address in 2007, discussed the experience with NewsNation on Thursday ahead of Biden’s own speech. He recalled that “individuals from every major department and agency” were on hand with “thick, big binders of protocols and procedures” to advise him in case he suddenly had to serve as President of the United States.

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