State of the Union 2018: White House announces guest list

The White House says 'some of these individual stories are heroic. Some are patriotic. Others are tragic' 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Monday 29 January 2018 21:13 GMT
What to expect from Donald Trump's first State of the Union address

The White House has announced its list of special guests for US President Donald Trump‘s first State of the Union speech.

The guests will be seated with First Lady Melania Trump during the speech and are being promoted as the human faces to the administration’s policies and priorities.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a news conference: “Some of these individual stories are heroic. Some are patriotic. Others are tragic, but all of them represent the unbreakable American spirit and will inspire our nation to continue growing stronger, prouder and more prosperous.”

Corey Adams is a manufacturing worker from Ohio. Mr Adams and his wife became first-time homeowners in 2017 and Ms Sanders said the couple would use money saved as a result of the President’s tax plan to save money for their children’s education.

Ms Sanders said that thanks to the “Trump bump” in the US economy, guests Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger, the President and Vice President of Staub Manufacturing Solutions have been able to expand the 20-year-old company and experienced an “uptick in sales, employment, and optimism”.

Mr Trump has hailed the tax reform plan and often touted rising stock prices on his Twitter account as accomplishments of his first year in office.

Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens as well as Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas were also invited to attended. The couples are parents of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, who were killed in Long Island, New York in 2016 by a gang called Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. The Department of Justice has conducted raids on the gang in the US and El Salvador, arresting more than 200 members in an October 2017 raid.

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Celestino “CJ” Martinez is a Supervisory special agent for the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit who assisted with the arrest of more than 100 MS-13 gang members for homicide, assault, and weapons trafficking.

An improvised explosive device in Iraq left retired Corporal Matthew Bradford blind and without his legs after his tour of duty in 2006-2007. Mr Bradford endured several surgeries and rounds of physical therapy to become the first blind, double amputee to re-enlist in the US Marine Corps.

Another member of the military, Staff Sergeant Justin Peck was also invited. Mr Peck saved a team member’s life in Raqqa, Syria, in November 2017 as they tried to clear explosives from a territory formerly controlled by Isis.

Preston Sharp, an 11-year-old boy, is the youngest invited guest and is being honoured for creating the Flags and Flowers for Vets programme, which has placed over 40,000 American flags and artificial red carnation on the grave sites of thousands of veterans throughout the country after noticing many were not decorated on a 2015 visit to his grandfather’s grave in California.

Mr Trump, who avoided military service in Vietnam due to “bone spurs,” has become an advocate for the US military and veterans by pegging their well-being to several policy issues during his first year in office. He has been both praised and criticised for giving combat generals more authority in decision making and increasing the budget of the Department of Defence, often at the cost of other federal agencies.

John Bridgers is the founder of the Cajun Navy, a non-profit rescue organisation that first responded to flooding in southern Louisiana in 2016. Last year the Cajun Navy headed to Houston, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to rescue and provide aid for thousands of people affected by the storm.

Ashley Leppert is a Coast Guard aviation electronics technician who helped rescue dozens of people stranded during the last hurricane season, particular one who woman who was carrying four small children in bags as she was being air lifted by Ms Leppert and the crew. The federal government provided emergency relief aid to Texas in the wake of the storm, just one of a series to hit the US and Caribbean at the time. Mr Trump has been criticised for his response to the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico - 450,000 remain without electricity four months later – after Hurricane Maria ravaged the US territory island.

A fire prevention technician in southern California, David Dahlberg saved 62 children and staff from a wildfire that nearly engulfed their camp during the dry winter fires that consumed much of the region.

Police officer Ryan Holets is a police officer in Albequerque, New Mexico, who has “experienced several near-death experiences” in his six years on the force, according to the White House. He and his wife adopted a baby from parents who were opioid addicts. The growing opioid crisis has been a major problem for several states in recent years. Mr Trump vowed to fight the epidemic through a federal task force, but also slashed federal substance abuse counselling programmes and sought to limit opioid addiction treatment programmes in his quest to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Democrats have also invited their own guests to the speech.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan invited a woman whose husband has been deported to Mexico after having lived, worked, and paid taxes in the US for 30 years.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Representaive Steny Hoyer invited several “Dreamers” as well, those recipients in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme who were brought to the US illegally as children but allowed to stay and work. DACA has been under hot debate in the immigration plan Mr Trump is expected to unveil in detail in coming days.

Members of Congress boycotting the speech include Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Pramila Jayapal, John Lewis, Frederica Wilson and Maxine Waters. Representative Joseph Kennedy III has been chosen by Democrats to give the official rebuttal speech.

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