TIME

How a High Schooler Made it to the State of the Union

On Tuesday night, Michelle Obama was joined by a handful of people to watch the President’s State of the Union address in person. From astronaut Scott Kelly to Alan Gross, the foreign aid worker who was recently released after five years of imprisonment in Cuba, each of the White House’s guests personifies a story the President would like to tell about America.

In 2014, Estiven Rodriguez was the author of one of those stories. Then a high-school senior from New York City, Rodriguez was recognized by Obama in the State of the Union address for arriving in United States, the son of a Dominican factory worker, unable to speak a word of English and going on to become a first-generation college student.

“Imagine not being able to speak up for yourself, communicate and truly make the right choices,” Rodriguez wrote in an essay that helped him earn a spot at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. “I was that middle-schooler who easily could have fallen into the wrong path.”

In the video above, TIME followed Rodriguez on his journey to the State of the Union.

TIME State of the Union 2015

The State of the Union Has Already Given 2016 Republicans a Headache

Rep. Steve King speaks with reporters at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 8, 2014.
Rep. Steve King speaks with reporters at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa on Aug. 8, 2014. Tom Williams—AP

President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech was still hours away from being delivered when it created a headache for likely Republican presidential candidates.

In a tweet posted around 6 p.m., Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who takes a hard-line stance against illegal immigration, called one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests “a deportable.”

King was referring to Ana Zamora, a 21-year-old college senior from Dallas who benefited from Obama’s 2012 executive order allowing people brought to the United States illegally as children to defer deportation. That program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, upset many congressional Republicans, who voted narrowly on a symbolic effort to overturn it last week, but it is widely popular among Latino voters.

It’s hardly unusual for King to make controversial statements about immigration, but the timing is trickier. On Saturday, he’ll be hosting a number of likely Republican presidential candidates at the Iowa Freedom Summit, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina.

They should expect to be asked about the phrase “a deportable” when they arrive in Iowa

TIME White House

Here’s Michelle Obama’s State of the Union Guest List

Michelle Obama
First lady Michelle Obama speaks to supporters during a rally in New Haven, Conn on Oct. 30, 2014. Jessica Hill—AP

The White House just released the list, which includes astronaut and TIME cover star Scott Kelly

The White House has released its list of the 22 special guests who will be seated in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The list includes high-profile names such as astronaut and TIME magazine cover star Scott Kelly, who will spend a year in space, and the president and CEO of CVS Health, Larry J. Merlo.

Other guests include Captain Phillip C. Tingirides of the Los Angeles Police Department; Catherine Pugh, Maryland Senate Majority Leader; Kathy Pham, a computer scientist with the United States Digital Service; and Alan Gross, a USAID sub-contractor who was reunited with his family after five years of imprisonment in Cuba the same day the U.S. announced it would begin to normalize diplomatic relations with the country.

TIME 2016 Election

Huckabee Knocks the Obamas for Encouraging Their Daughters to Like Beyoncé

Mike Huckabee speaks at the Freedom Summit on April 12, 2014 in New Hampshire. Darren McCollester—Getty Images

Parenting advice and criticism from a potential 2016 presidential candidate

First, it was Beyoncé and Jay Z up for scolding by conservative Republican Mike Huckabee. Now it’s Barack and Michelle Obama‘s turn.

In an interview about his new book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, Huckabee tells PEOPLE he doesn’t get how the Obamas can encourage their daughters’ love for Beyoncé. Especially, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister says, if the president and first lady ever actually listened to the lyrics to – or seen a performance of Beyoncé’s steamy “Drunk in Love.”

The Obamas “are excellent and exemplary parents in many ways,” Huckabee says.

“That’s the whole point. I don’t understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything – how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school and making sure they’re kind of sheltered and shielded from so many things – and yet they don’t see anything that might not be suitable for either a preteen or a teen in some of the lyrical content and choreography of Beyoncé, who has sort of a regular key to the door” of the White House.

Beyoncé, Jay Z and their daughter, Blue Ivy, were at the White House last January for Mrs. Obama’s exclusive 50th birthday bash and the first lady has taken her girls to several Beyoncé concerts.

The singer, criticized in Huckabee’s book for “obnoxious and toxic mental poison in the form of song lyrics” and dance moves “best left for the privacy of her bedroom,” was also featured prominently at the president’s second Inauguration in 2013.

The first lady’s office had no response to Huckabee’s comments.

This article originally appeared on People.com, read the whole story at People.

TIME White House

Here’s Barack and Michelle Obama Bringing In The New Year

A candid moment for the President and First Lady

The First Couple brought in the new year at home in a quiet, relaxed fashion. But the White House’s official Twitter account did provide the public with a glimpse of the celebrations.

The first tweet of the new year shows the president and his first lady sharing a tender moment.

TIME Social Media

Michelle Obama Tweeted the Ultimate Throwback Thursday Christmas Photo

Featuring Michelle, Barack and his awesomely dated sweater vest

Michelle Obama killed two Twitter birds with one stone — a Christmas post and a #tbt post — when she shared an old photo of her, Barack and his awesomely dated sweater vest on Thursday. (If Malia Obama hasn’t already discovered that sweater in a closet and worn it to an ugly sweater Christmas party, it’s only a matter of time.)

The photo shows off the couple’s Christmas tree-decorating skills in the back, though FLOTUS and POTUS have since moved on to much, much bigger trees.

TIME White House

Obama Recalls Trouble Getting a Cab Before He Was President

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

The First Couple opens up about racism

Before they lived behind the White House gates, Barack and Michelle Obama dealt with the day-to-day racism experienced by black families across America, the First Couple told People in an exclusive new interview.

“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” Michelle Obama said. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” President Obama said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.”

Read more at People

TIME White House

Obama: ‘No Black Male My Age’ Hasn’t Been Mistaken for a Valet

Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Presiden Obama at the White House Dec. 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

The President and First Lady opened up in a recent interview about racial prejudices they've experienced

The Obamas opened up about their experiences with racial prejudice in an interview with People magazine.

“There’s no black male my age who’s a professional who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” President Barack Obama said in an excerpt released Wednesday.

He said that it had happened to him, too. First lady Michelle Obama said that another time her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”

The president said that the indignities that the first couple…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME White House

See Michelle Obama’s Best Outfits of 2014

Love it or hate it: Being First Lady of the United States means being one of the leading ladies of fashion.

Whether getting noticed for mostly eschewing the world of fashion, as Hillary Clinton did, or choosing to make a statement with what you wear, as Jackie Kennedy did, the First Lady is going to get attention for what she wears. Michelle Obama has taken well to the role, choosing to mix high and low in her fashion picks, and 2014 was no exception.

TIME royals

LeBron Kind of Broke Royal Protocol With Kate

Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William with Lebron James at the Brooklyn Nets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Basketball game on Dec. 8, 2014 in New York.
Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William with Lebron James at the Brooklyn Nets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Basketball game on Dec. 8, 2014 in New York. Michael Dunlea—AP

Watch that arm!

To an American eye, there was nothing strange about a sweaty LeBron James putting his arm around Kate to pose for a photograph after his Cleveland Cavaliers played the Brooklyn Nets on Monday evening. To the British, though, merely touching the Duchess of Cambridge represents a serious breach in etiquette. Someone get some smelling salts!

While U.S. headlines cooed over the adorable mini-jersey James presented to Prince William and Kate, who were in New York as part of their three-day visit, British tabloids led with the fact that star basketball player inadvertently violated royal protocol. While the website of the Monarchy stipulates that “there are no obligatory codes of behavior” for meeting a member of the royal family, the more understood protocol is, well, don’t touch or speak to a royal unless you’re touched or spoken to first.

First Lady Michelle Obama broke this unofficial rule in 2009 when she put her arm around Queen Elizabeth II. The media went wild, but the Queen was cool with it, though, because Obama’s arms are amazing.

Read next: LeBron James Gave William and Kate a Cavaliers Jersey for Prince George

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