- Partisan politics on display during President Obama’s State of the Union address this evening
- Traditionally the first lady invites guest to include those whose personal stories can help highlight a particular policy or issue for the president
- That now extends to opposition politicians inviting guests who represent the opposing side to the debate
By James Nye and Meghan Keneally
President Obama brought both sides of the political divide together during Tuesday’s State of the Union address as paid an emotional tribute to injured Afghanistan veteran Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg.
The president drew a standing ovation from Republicans and Democrats for the war hero who was left in a coma for three months in 2009 after a roadside bomb hit his convoy outside Kandahar during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq.
As Remsburg watched on from the public gallery as a guest of first lady, Michelle Obama, president Obama told the packed house how the hero continues to work each day on his recovery.
President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014.
‘Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.’
Tribute: US First Lady Michelle Obama gives the thumbs up to US Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, who was wounded in Afghanistan during President Obama’s State of the Union address
Hero: First lady Michelle Obama, and others, applaud Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg as President Barack Obama acknowledges him during his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington
Acknowledgement: US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) stands with US Army Ranger Cory Remsburg (2nd-L), who was wounded in Afghanistan, before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress
Honored guests: First Lady Michelle Obama waves from her box before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Tuesday evening
Presidential address: First lady Michelle Obama greets U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg (3rd from L), injured while serving in Afghanistan, as she arrives prior to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech
In an emotional moment, a visibly touched Remsburg then stood to acknowledge the sustained applause from the house as Michelle Obama smiled broadly at him.
Remsburg was just one of her honored guests this evening during her husband’s fifth State of the Union address to a joint session of congress – but some of the other guest attendees only served to highlight the deep partisan divide that exists on Capitol Hill.
While the first lady warmly embraced injured Afghanistan veteran Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, Republicans such as former vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan posed for selfies with controversial Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson.
Robertson, the son of Duck Dynasty’s patriarch Phil Robertson – who was temporarily suspended from the show after making anti-gay remarks – was invited by Louisiana’s new Republican congressman, Vance McAllister.
Strong: Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, who had to have both his legs amputated after being injured in the blasts, stands with his rescuer Carlos Arredondo (L) before the start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech
Indeed, Representative McAllister pointedly said in a statement that he looks forward to ‘bringing some diversity to our nation’s Capitol’, with the invitation of the younger Robertson, despite the huge controversy his father created last year.
In addition, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham threw his hat firmly into the Duck Dynasty ring by gifting his invite to Willie Robertson’s wife, Korie Robertson – and tweeted a smiling picture to prove it.
It has become tradition for the first lady’s guests to include those whose personal stories can help highlight a particular policy or issue for the president.
Twenty-four people have been invited to join Mrs. Obama in her box, including two Boston Marathon bombing survivors, Jeff Bauman and his cowboy hatted rescuer, Carlos Arredondo.
However, more politically pointed guests include, Amanda Shelley, from Gilbert, Arizona.
Feted guests: Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, center and his wife Korie, talk with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28
The 37-year-old physicians assistant was uninsured and couldn’t get coverage because of a pre-existing condition until Obama’s health care legislation became law, the White House said.
Two days after receiving coverage, she encountered abdominal pain that eventually required emergency surgery – something that would never have happened before the Affordable Care Act.
Countering this, Republican leaders have urged their members to host people for whom Obama’s signature national health care law is a burden.
Selfies with a cable television star: Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, center and his wife Korie, pose with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill
House Speaker John Bohner’s guests are business owners from his Ohio district. They include David Lippert, president of Hamilton Caster & Manufacturing Company in Hamilton, Ohio, who complains ‘Obamacare’ is limiting his efforts to expand his business.
Backing up the president and his wife is Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who is hosting small business owner Martin West, whose wife Melinda was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
In December, West signed his family up for health insurance under the new law and ‘now have the peace of mind of knowing they cannot be dropped from their health insurance due to a pre-existing condition,’
Keen to keep the Benghazi controversy rumbling on, Oklahoma Republican Congressman, Jim Bridenstine, is hosting Charles Woods, father of Ty Woods, a Navy SEAL killed in the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Bridenstine said in a statement ‘I am honored to host the father of a true hero.’
The Sept. 11, 2012 attack and the Obama administration’s response to it is a politically charged subject ahead of the 2014 midterms and the 2016 presidential election.
Guests: South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted this picture of Willie Robertson and his wife Korie Robertson saying he was proud to provide his guest ticket to the Duck Dynasty star’s wife
The first lady always brings a group of apolitical Americans to the annual speech with her to highlight their service and achievements throughout the year.
Some will be recognized by many and this year one of those men will be Carlos Arredondo, who was wearing a white cowboy hat as he rushed a stranger- later identified as Jeff Bauman- to get medical treatment after he lost both legs in the blast.
The iconic picture of Mr Arrendondo rushing Bauman to first responders became a hopeful symbol of the devastating attack.
The White House said that the two men have become close friends.
Another guest will be Cary Bird, the fire chief in Moore Oklahoma.
He led the rescue response to the tornado that hit the town and killed 25 people.
US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on the floor of the US House of Representatives in the US Capitol in Washington
‘Fire Chief Gary Bird represents all of those who rallied together to help the community of Moore, Oklahoma- firefighters, police officers, teachers, neighbors- in its greatest time of need,’ the White House said in a statement announcing Mrs Obama’s guests.
The best-known guest that has been announced so far is Jason Collins, the NBA player who announced that he is gay which made him the first openly gay athlete in the league.
Mrs Obama and the White House put out statements immediately praising Collins when he made his announcement in April, as did former President Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea, who has been friends with Collins since they attended Stanford together.
Other guests include, Peter Mouskondis, president and CEO of Nicholas & Company, Inc., a third-generation, family-owned and operated food service distribution company, with roughly 500 employees.
The White House says the company’s emphasis on work-life balance and benefits, including maternity, paternity and bereavement leave, have contributed to worker productivity and company growth.
Survivor: Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, who had to have both his legs amputated after being injured in the blasts, arrives before the start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech
First Lady Michelle Obama waves from her box before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington
Another two American hero is Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg who has met with Obama three times since a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on his 10th deployment, left him in a coma for three months, partially paralyzed and brain-damaged.
He will be accompanied by his father, Craig, a retired Air Force Reserve firefighter, and stepmother Annie, are his caretakers.
Other, more politically pointed guests of the first lady include, John Soranno, the CEO of Punch Pizza, which has eight locations in the state, and co-owner, John Puckett, raised the company-wide minimum wage to $10 an hour.
Out of the ashes: Carlos Arredondo (in the white cowboy hat) helped save Jeff Bauman after he lost both legs in the explosion and now they will both be guests of Mrs Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday
Moving past it: The two men, seen here at a September 2013 football game, have become close friends
He will be accompanied by Nick Chute, an employee of Punch Pizza, who the White House says has benefited from his employer’s decision to pay a higher minimum wage.
Immigration is also another political battleground between the Republicans and Democrats.
Sitting with the first lady is Cristian Avila of Phoenix, who along with his two younger brothers, were brought to the U.S. illegally when Avila was 9.
Now 23, he is a so-called Dreamer who has benefited from an Obama policy allowing young people who immigrated illegally with their parents to avoid deportation. Avila recently fasted for 22 days to call for an immigration overhaul.
Also sitting in the gallery will be Mary Barra, the first female CEO of General Motors this month after 33 years with the company. GM also benefited from a federal bailout of the auto industry.
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