Roughly two dozen special guests will attend Tuesday’s State of the Union at the invitation of the White House, including veterans and first responders, cancer survivors, a mental health advocates and the parents of Tyre Nichols.
The list of guests who will sit in first lady Jill Biden’s box during President Biden’s speech, unveiled early Tuesday by the White House, features several individuals who highlight the administration’s priorities on reproductive rights, access to safe drinking water, immigration, the economy and gun violence.
Among the most high-profile guests who will attend Tuesday night’s address to Congress are Bono, the lead singer of U2 and a prominent HIV/AIDS activist; Paul Pelosi, the husband of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who is recovering from a violent October attack; and the parents of Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who died last month after being beaten by Memphis police in an incident captured on video.
Biden is set to speak to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. EST.
Here is the full list of guests attending at the invitation of the White House:
Oksana Markarova, ambassador of Ukraine
The first lady invited Markarova, the ambassador of Ukraine, to join as her personal guest at the speech for a second consecutive year. Tuesday’s speech comes just days before the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Markarova attended last year’s State of the Union and received a standing ovation.
Maurice and Kandice Barron
The Barrons have a 3-year-old daughter, Ava, who is a survivor of a rare form of pediatric cancer. Last year, Ava’s doctors declared she is in remission.
Fighting cancer has been a personal cause for the president and first lady, and in 2022 they re-launched the Cancer Moonshot initiative to cut cancer deaths in half. The president called on Congress to take up cancer research as a bipartisan cause.
Lynette Bonar is a member of Navajo Nation and a former U.S. Army sergeant and medic. She spent 19 years providing clinical care as a registered nurse at the Tuba City, Arizona, Regional Health Care Corporation.
In 2019, Bonar opened a special care center that marked the first cancer center opened on a Native American reservation.
Bono is the lead singer of the rock band U2, and he has spent decades as an activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS and global poverty.
Deanna Branch met last year with Vice President Harris to share her family’s experiences with lead exposure, including how her son, Aidan, dealt with lead poisoning because of levels in their drinking water and home.
The administration, and Harris in particular, have highlighted how money from the bipartisan infrastructure law and American Rescue Plan are being used to replace lead service lines to ensure communities have access to clean, safe water.
Kristin Christensen and Avarie Kollmar
Kristin Christensen is a mother and caregiver to her husband, who retired from the Navy due to combat injuries. She and her daughter, Avarie Kollmar, advocate for military and veteran children in caregiving homes, sharing their stories to help others seek out support.
The two previously met with the first lady in 2022 during a Joining Forces event, which is Jill Biden’s initiative to support military and veteran families.
Ruth Cohen is a Holocaust survivor and a volunteer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. She and her family were liberated from a concentration camp in 1945 and immigrated to the U.S. a few years later.
Cohen is a special guest of second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish and has made fighting rising U.S. antisemitism a key part of his portfolio.
The White House created a task force in December to create a strategy to combat the rise in hatred toward Jews and other religious groups.
Mitzi Colin Lopez
Mitzi Colin Lopez is a so-called “Dreamer” who was brought to the U.S. as a young child by her parents. She received protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Biden is expected to call on Congress to enact immigration reform and provide clarity for DACA participants such as Colin Lopez who have been in the country for years.
Maurice “Dion” Dykes
Maurice “Dion” Dykes is training to become a teacher in Tennessee through an apprenticeship program funded in part by the American Rescue Plan. Dykes previously worked for 25 years in graphic design.
Dykes met with the first lady in 2022 when she visited a school in Tennessee to discuss how states and local school districts are recruiting new educators.
Kate Foley is a 10th grade student at Rolling Meadows High School in Illinois who is learning about computer-integrated manufacturing as part of a partnership with the local community college.
Foley, who met the first lady during a visit to the high school last year, is hoping to pursue a career as a biomedical engineer.
Darlene Gaffney was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2015. She has since joined Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church’s Cancer Support Ministry in South Carolina to use her experience to educate others about early detection and cancer screenings.
Doug Griffin’s 20-year-old daughter Courtney died in 2014 from a fentanyl overdose. He has since worked as an advocate to raise awareness and fight the stigma around addiction and call for better treatment services.
Griffin wrote to the president and first lady in 2021 to share his family’s story. Biden is expected to discuss the need to crack down on drug traffickers and increase addiction treatment options during his speech.
Saria Gwin-Maye is an ironworker and union member from Ohio who introduced President Biden during a visit to the Brent Spence Bridge in Kentucky earlier this year.
The bridge is being upgraded through funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which Biden signed in 2021.
Jacki Liszak is the president of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce and an elected fire commissioner for the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District.
Liszak met the president and first lady last year when they were in Florida to tour storm damage from Hurricane Ian.
Harry Miller is a senior at the Ohio State University who last year announced he was retiring from football to focus on his mental health.
Miller has since become an advocate for mental health and emotional wellness, a topic the president has said is a focus of his Unity Agenda, areas he has pushed for bipartisan support from Congress.
Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith
The Nortonsmiths were plaintiffs in Goodridge vs. MA Dept. of Public Health, a case that ultimately led Massachusetts to become the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.
The two introduced Biden late last year at a White House ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act, which protects same-sex marriages.
Paul Pelosi, the husband of the former Speaker, is recovering from a violent attack at his home in San Francisco last October. The attack was politically motivated, with the assailant asking where Nancy was at the time before hitting Paul with a hammer.
Biden has condemned the attack repeatedly and has more broadly pushed back on political violence, including the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
Paul Sarzoza is a small-business owner from Phoenix whose biggest customer is TSMC, a semiconductor chip manufacturer.
TSMC is expanding through investments from the CHIPS and Science Act, which is funding domestic production of semiconductor chips. The chips are used in computers, cars and other household appliances. Sarzoza’s business is hiring more than 100 new employees as a result.
Tsay was praised as a hero after he disarmed a gunman who was responsible for a mass shooting in the Monterey Park neighborhood of Los Angeles last month during Lunar New Year celebrations.
Tsay is credited with stopping the gunman from carrying out another attack in the area. Biden previously spoke to him on the phone to thank him for his courage.
RowVaughn and Rodney Wells
RowVaughn and Rodney Wells are the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year old Black man who died last month, days after he was brutally beaten by police in Memphis, Tennessee.
Video of the beating was released late last month, fueling outrage over police treatment of Black people and renewing calls for policing reform. The officers involved have been fired and are facing criminal charges.
Amanda and Josh Zurawski
The Zurawskis are Texas residents whose experiences with abortion laws in the state highlight the administration’s push for greater access to reproductive health across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Roe v. Wade.
Amanda was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke, but doctors were unable to intervene to help out of concern over state laws banning abortions unless a woman’s life is in danger. She developed sepsis and nearly died because of the delay in receiving treatment, and she still deals with medical complications because of it.
Biden has called on Congress to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade, but such a bill is unlikely to pass the current divided legislative branch.