State of the Union guests include Joshua Trump, boy bullied for his last name, and Pittsburgh shooting survivors
The president and lawmakers often make a statement with their invitees, and this year is no exception.
President Donald Trump will give the State of the Union address Tuesday night, but he won’t be the only one making a statement.
Beyond the president’s words, the State of the Union guest list has become one of the most-watched parts of the annual address, as lawmakers often invite people who epitomize an issue facing their state or the nation, and this year is no exception.
Coming out of the 35-day partial government shutdown that delayed the speech for a week, lawmakers' guests prominently feature some of the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, and highlights top political issues across the country such as immigration, gun control, women’s rights, and the opioid crisis.
According to the White House, Trump’s hour-long address — focusing on the economy, military, and immigration — will preach “unity” and a pledge to work across the aisle on key issues.
Here are some highlights from the guest list.
The president’s picks
Trump has invited 13 guests to the address, including Grace Eline, a 10-year-old cancer survivor from New Jersey. In lieu of birthday gifts, the Gillette, Morris County, girl asked for donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Judah Samet, a survivor of the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue that killed 11 in October, will attend the speech as a guest of Trump. Samet also survived the Holocaust and served as a paratrooper and radio man in the Israeli Defense Forces, according to an announcement from the White House.
Bullied in school for sharing last name with the president, Joshua Trump — a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Del. — has also been invited to attend.
“The teacher will say, ‘Joshua Trump, are you here?’ I’ll go ‘yes,’ and almost everybody would laugh besides my friends,” Joshua told Inside Edition.
In fact, the bullying was so bad that his parents opted for homeschooling before transferring the 11-year-old to a different school. Teachers have stopped using his last name in class, and the sixth-grader is considering changing his name, Inside Edition reported.
The president’s other guests include Elvin Hernandez, a special agent with Homeland Security who focuses on human trafficking; Ashley Evans, who is recovering after struggling with opioid and substance abuse; and Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong, and Madison Armstrong, relatives of a Nevada couple who authorities say were killed by an undocumented immigrant.
The woman who confronted Jeff Flake in an elevator
Known for cornering Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) in an elevator during now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and telling the story of her own sexual assault, Ana Maria Archila will attend the speech as a guest of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.). Archila is an activist and co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy action.
As Ocasio-Cortez did when she was sworn into Congress, female members of both parties to are expected to wear white during the State of the Union address as a tribute to the suffragette movement.
Undocumented workers from Trump’s golf club
Last week, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., N.J.) announced she would bring Victorina Morales, a Guatemalan woman who worked for Trump at his golf club in Bedminster for five years, despite telling her hiring manager that she had no legal working papers.
Leaving her job at the golf club in December after publicly disclosing her undocumented status, Morales told the Associated Press she has a message for the president: “Forget about the wall, stop separating families and focus on an immigration reform.”
Sandra Diaz, who also spoke to the New York Times about working at the golf club while undocumented, will attend the speech as a guest of Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D., Calif).
The two have petitioned members of Congress for protection from Immigration Customs and Enforcement and asked lawmakers to scrutinize the hiring practices of the Trump Organization.
Other guests of local lawmakers
Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Pa.), who has aided the Democratic push for gun control in the House, will bring Columbine school shooting survivor and gun safety activist Jami Amo — a Willow Grove resident — to the address.
Also drawing attention to gun-violence prevention, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D., Pa.) invited Michelle Roberson, the mother of Bianca Roberson, a teen who was fatally shot in a Chester County road-rage incident in 2017.
Mary Gay Scanlon, (D. Pa.), will also be joined by survivors of gun violence and advocates of reform: Beverly Wright and Malcolm Yates. Yates, of Chester, survived a shooting in a candy store when he was seven years old. He started a community center named after his brother, Marcus, who was killed. After losing her 23-year-old son to gun violence, Wright has also become an advocate for gun violence prevention, leading a support group for families and a Delaware County advocacy group.
Highlighting the opioid crisis, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) has invited 16-year-old Justin Cangro to the address. Cangro’s 20-year-old brother, Jared, died of an overdose in July 2016.
Hing Foo Lee will attend the speech as a guest of Rep. Tom Malinowski (D., N.J.). Lee is the brother of the late John Lee, who was featured in the Washington Post for his determination to vote in New Jersey’s 7th District in the 2018 midterm despite his stage four colon cancer diagnosis.
Reflecting Trump’s push for the Mexico border wall, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are bringing workers impacted by the government shutdown as well as border patrol representatives. Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.) has invited Alana Lewis, who represents many of the workers affected by the shutdown as a legislative and political organizer with the American Federation of Government Employees.
Similarly, Sen. Bob Casey, (D., Pa.) will bring Monica Hughes, a TSA agent and Army reservist from Pittsburgh, who did not receive a paycheck during the 35-day shutdown.
John Malloy, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley company Victaulic, will attend as a guest of Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.). Victaulic makes joiners used in pipeline projects.