President Donald Trump will deliver his second State of the Union address to a room that will include a number of guests who reflect his agenda and the impact of his administration’s policies.
The White House, continuing a tradition established by former President Ronald Reagan, has announced a slate of guests who will be in attendance for the speech, including a survivor of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and a sixth-grader named Joshua Trump, who has no relation to the President but has been bullied in school for his last name.
By inviting citizens to his address, Trump will carry on a custom initiated by Reagan, who in 1982 invited Lenny Skutnik to his first address to Congress. Skutnik came to national attention that year when he jumped into the Potomac River to rescue a passenger aboard an Air Florida jetliner that had crashed there. Reagan commended Skutnik’s actions, noting “the heroism of one of our young government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.”
Every president since Reagan has kept up with the tradition of inviting a citizen whose life and actions fall in line with the themes of the speech and mentioning them during the address.
Members of Congress will also highlight the issues important to them through the guests they choose to bring to the State of the Union. Each lawmaker is permitted to bring a guest to the address, and many take the opportunity to signal their policy priorities for the occasion. Among the audience members will be a woman who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake to call attention to allegations of sexual misconduct and his support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, federal employees who were furloughed when the government shut down over Trump’s demands for a border wall, a transgender military member and a mother and daughter who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Here are some of the guests who will be at the State of the Union on Tuesday.
Guests of 2020 Democratic hopefuls
Democrats who have already announced their intention to run for president in the 2020 election have selected a wide range of guests that reflect their policy positions and priorities.
Edward Douglas (Guest of Sen. Cory Booker)
Edward Douglas, a former federal inmate from Chicago, will accompany New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at the State of the Union. Douglas, who became eligible for release from prison in January after Trump passed the First Step Act, was sentenced to life in prison in 2003 for selling 140 grams of crack cocaine. Booker, who recently announced his candidacy for President, is bringing Douglas to highlight his commitment to criminal justice reform.
Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik (Guest of Sen. Kamala Harris)
Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, an air traffic controller from California, will attend the State of the Union address as a guest of California Sen. Kamala Harris. Pesiri-Dybvik, who lost her home in the 2017 Thomas Fire when it hit Ventura, Ca., was also among the 800,000 federal workers who missed paychecks during the government shutdown.
Blake Dremann (Guest of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand)
Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann will join New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at the State of the Union address. Gillibrand will bring Dremann, a transgender Navy officer, to spotlight her efforts against Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the U.S. military. Dremann is a decorated military member who serves as the president of SPARTA, an LGBT military advocacy organization that focuses on advocacy for transgender service members.
Sajid Shahriar (Guest of Sen. Elizabeth Warren)
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will bring Sajid Shahriar, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employee who was furloughed during the 35-day government shutdown. Shahriar, a labor leader in Massachusetts, missed paychecks during the shutdown and organized with fellow federal workers to push for the government to re-open.
Guests of the White House
The White House has invited a wide range of guests, including the father of a Navy sailor who was killed, a police officer who responded to the Tree of Life shooting and a woman who struggled with opioid and substance abuse.
Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong
Family members of Gerald and Sharon David, who were found shot to death in their homes in January, will attend the State of the Union as guests of Trump. Wilbur Martinez-Guzman, 19, has been arrested in connection with the Davids’ murders and the killing of two other people. Authorities say the El Salvador native is in the U.S. illegally.
The Davids’ daughter, Debra; granddaughter, Heather; and great-granddaghter, Madison, will be in attendance at the State of the Union.
Trump has invoked the suspect’s immigration status as a reason to support his demand for a border wall.
A prisoner released after Trump signed the First Step Act into law, Matthew Charles left prison on Jan. 3. He was sentenced in 1996 to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine and on other related offenses.
Grace Eline, who was diagnosed at age 9 with a germ-cell brain tumor and underwent chemotherapy, will attend the State of the Union.
Ashley Evans, who has struggled with opioid and substance abuse issues will attend the State of the Union after seeking treatment following the birth of her daughter. On Feb. 9, she will celebrate one year and one month in recovery.
Elvin Hernandez is a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division where he has worked in the Trafficking in Persons unit.
Roy James is the plant manger for the Vicksburg Forest Products lumber facility.
Alice Johnson’s life sentence in prison was commuted by Trump following a meeting with Kim Kardashian West, who lobbied on her behalf. She was granted clemency last June, which allowed her to be released from prison where she was serving a life sentence without parole after being convicted on multiple counts related to cocaine possession. Johnson’s case became rallying cry for sentencing reform advocates.
Timothy Matson became a member of the SWAT team in 2016 after joining the Pittsburgh Police Department in 2005. He was one of the SWAT team members who responded during the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018, and sustained multiple gunshot wounds.
Judah Samet is a survivor of the Tree of Life shooting and is also a survivor of the Holocaust. He moved to the U.S. from Israel in the 1960s.
Joshua Trump is a sixth-grader from Delaware who has faced bullying because he shares a last name with the President. Trump, 11, will join First Lady Melania Trump as part of her anti-bullying “Be Best” campaign. According to the White House, Joshua Trump “loves animals and hopes to pursue a related career in the future” and “appreciates science, art and history.”
The issues Trump ran into because of his name came to light last year after his parents said he would be going by a different name in class following bullying from classmates, which started when President Trump began his campaign for office.
“They curse at him, they call him an idiot, they call him stupid,” his mother, Megan Trump, told WPVI in December.
The father of Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley who was killed on U.S.S. Cole, Tom Wibberley will attend the State of the Union.
Guests of lawmakers in the House and Senate
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have several guests at the State of the Union, including three active duty transgender service members, Jennifer Peace, Ian Brown and Jeremy Butler. Her guest list also extends to Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime Guttenberg was killed in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, Charlie Mirsky, the co-founder of March For Our Lives and Mattie Scott, who represents the San Francisco Brady Campaign.
Chefs José Andrés and Tyler Florence will also attend as guests of Pelosi, as will Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen.
Pelosi’s guests also include Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez; Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, the CEO and co-founder of MomsRising, an advocacy group focused on issues that face women; District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser; New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver; and New Jersey State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.
Additional guests include the leaders of several labor organizations in the U.S. Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association; Leo Gerard, president of United Steelworkers; Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union; Doug McCarron, president of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; and Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) will attend the address.
Ana Maria Archila (Guest of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is bringing Ana Maria Archila, one of two women who went viral after confronting Sen. Jeff Flake on live TV in protest of his support of Brett Kavanaugh.
In an interview on CBS, Flake said he was glad Archila was attending the State of the Union. “She had a real impact,” Flake said. “I was very unsettled about where we were on the Kavanaugh nomination, I felt that there was no reason why we couldn’t of had an FBI investigation, and that episode in the elevator helped me make up my mind to actually request and demand that investigation.”
Ronan Byrne (Guest of Sen. Chuck Schumer)
Sen. Chuck Schumer has invited Ronan Byrne, an air traffic controller at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, to attend the State of the Union Address. Byrne was one of thousands of air traffic controllers who worked without pay during the government shutdown to keep flights running. “Even in the face of uncertainty over when they’d receive their next paychecks or how they’d pay their bills and feed their families, federal employees like Ronan Byrne dutifully showed up for work, each and every day,” Schumer said in a statement. “Air traffic controllers throughout our country deserve a stable income to perform their essential jobs – with the highest level of concentration and dedication – to ensure public safety for the millions Americans who fly each day.”
Linda Clark (Guest of Rep. Ilhan Omar)
Linda Clark, who has lived in the U.S. for more than 18 years after fleeing her home country of Liberia during a civil war in 2000, will join Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar at the State of the Union. Clark faces the threat of deportation after Trump last year ordered the termination of special legal status for some Liberian immigrants. The program, called Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) has enabled recipients to live and work in the U.S. since it went into effect in 2007.
Trump issued a memorandum on March 27, 2018 calling for the program to wind down. The current DED period will expire on March 31, putting the futures of several Liberian immigrants in jeopardy. Omar said in a statement that she invited Clark to join her at the State of the Union to “urge the Trump Administration to renew DED status for Liberian Americans.”
Albertina Contreras Teletor and Yaquelin Garcia Contreras (Guests of Sen. Jeff Merkley)
Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley will bring Albertina Contreras Teletor and Yaquelin García Contreras, a mother and daughter who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border last year, to the State of the Union. Yaquelin was separated from her mother for nearly two months before being reunited in July 2018. The mother and daughter appeared on the Feb. 4 cover of TIME as part of a special report that delved into global migration.
Sandra Diaz (Guest of Rep. Jimmy Gomez)
Congressman Jimmy Gomez will bring Sandra Diaz, an immigrant from Costa Rica who worked for Trump as a housekeeper between 2010 and 2013, a time span during which she was undocumented in the country. Now a legal resident, Diaz was one of several undocumented workers at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., where she said she was harassed and abused by supervisors due to her immigration status.
Lisa J. Graumlich (Guest of Rep. Pramila Jayapal)
Climate scientist and Dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington Lisa J. Graumlich will join Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal at the State of the Union Address. Jayapal is bringing Graumlich to draw attention to the issues wrought by climate change.
Brandon Judd (Guest of Rep. Chip Roy)
Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican, will bring Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council. Judd “represents the men and women of Border Patrol, who are on the ground day in, day out, selflessly risking their lives to secure the border,” Roy said in a statement.
Cameron Kasky (Guest of Rep. Eric Swalwell)
California Rep. Eric Swalwell will bring Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Cameron Kasky as his guest to the State of the Union. Kasky, 18, helped organize the March for Our Lives rally last year.
Rita Lewis (Guest of Sen. Sherrod Brown)
Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, will be accompanied at the State of the Union by Rita Lewis, an advocate for preserving pension plans. Lewis’s husband, Butch Lewis, died in 2015 while leading a fight against cuts to pension plans.
Justina Pettway (Guest of Sen. John Kennedy)
Louisiana Republican John Kennedy has invited Justina Pettway, a custodian at the Russell Senate Office Building, to join him at the State of the Union. It’s the second year in a row Kennedy will be accompanied by someone from the Goodwill of Greater Washington’s AbilityOne program, which helps people who are blind or have other disabilities find work through agencies that contract with the federal government. Pettway “works very hard and is good at her job,” Kennedy said in a statement.
“I am excited to have her accompany me to the State of Union address,” he said. “She helps daily to maintain a friendly and welcoming work environment on the Hill for the senators, our staff and the public. She deserves to enjoy this historic event.”
Nicole Smith-Holt (Guest of Sen. Amy Klobuchar)
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will bring Nicole Smith-Holt, a woman whose son died because he could not afford the cost of his insulin.
Kenia Yaritza Arredondo Ramos (Guest of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard)
DACA recipient Kenia Yaritza Arredondo Ramos will attend the State of the Union with California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard. An aspiring registered nurse born in Mexico, Arredondo said in a statement that she’s “one of many living in fear of deportation and family separation.”
- What a Photographer Saw in the West Bank
- Accenture’s Chief AI Officer on Why This Is a Defining Moment
- Inside COP28's Big 'Experiment'
- U.S. Doctors Can't Be Silent About Gaza: Column
- The Movie Wives Would Like a Word
- The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023
- The Top 100 Photos of 2023
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time