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State of the Union Guest List Highlights Election Issues


FILE - Jazmin Cazares, whose young sister Jackie was was one of 19 children killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, attends a hearing, June 23, 2022, in Austin, Texas. Cazares will be among invited guests at President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.
FILE - Jazmin Cazares, whose young sister Jackie was was one of 19 children killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, attends a hearing, June 23, 2022, in Austin, Texas. Cazares will be among invited guests at President Joe Biden's State of the Union address.

In preparation for Thursday's State of the Union address by President Joe Biden, the White House and members of Congress have invited a wide array of guests, focusing on issues that Democrats and Republicans want to highlight before this year's election.

Among the guests are union workers, those impacted by nationwide abortion restrictions, family members of overseas political prisoners and individuals affected by what many see as a broken U.S. immigration system.

The guests will be seated in the upper gallery of the House chamber, where the speech is set to occur at 9 p.m. Washington time.

Reproductive health care

Some guests invited by first lady Jill Biden and Democratic members of Congress spotlight healthcare rights.

Elizabeth Carr, invited by Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat representing Virginia, was the first baby in the U.S. born through in vitro fertilization, a process under attack by some groups.

Kate Cox is a woman from the Dallas area, invited by Jill Biden, who sued for her right to terminate a health-threatening non-viable pregnancy in Texas after stringent anti-abortion legislation was passed there.

Tammi Kromenake, invited by Senator Tina Smith, Minnesota Democrat, helped run the only abortion clinic in the state of North Dakota for 25 years. After the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade — the ruling that established the right to an abortion — she had to move the clinic to Minnesota.


Some invited guests highlight the key role immigration policies are set to play in the upcoming elections.

Ben Kurian and Zunxu Tian are two New York City police officers who were invited by Republican New York representatives Anthony D'Esposito and Nicole Malliotakis. Kurian and Tian were attacked by migrants in January, in an incident that drew national attention.

Brandon Budlong, president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 2724, was invited by Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, for his extensive experience as a border patrol agent and experience with what she calls “Joe Biden’s irresponsible border policies.”

Invited by Representative Lou Correa, a California Democrat, is Valeria Delgado, a student from Chapman University in California, who benefited from a policy to protect child migrants entering the U.S.

International relations

Also among guests expected to attend Thursday are family members of political prisoners and hostages overseas. The presence of those guests shows the prominence of international issues like the war in Gaza in voters’ minds.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson invited Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, parents of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter imprisoned in Moscow on espionage charges.

Invited by Johnson and Representative Mike Lawler, a New York Republican, are Orna and Daniel Neutra, the mother and brother of Omer Neutra, an American who has been held hostage by Hamas since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

Ketsia, Miriam and Caleb Corbett, children of Taliban hostage Ryan Corbett, were invited by Johnson and Representative Claudia Tenney, a Republican from New York. Corbett has been held hostage since 2022, the year after Biden withdrew troops from Afghanistan.

Gabriel Shipton, the brother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, was invited by Representative Thomas Massi, a Republican from Kentucky. Assange is imprisoned in London. The U.S. is seeking to extradite him for publishing classified documents in 2010.

Other notable guests

Among other notable guests are Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Bettie Mae Fikes, Shawn Fain and Jazmin Cazares, all invited by Jill Biden.

Kristersson has helped lead Sweden’s effort to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Sweden formally joined the alliance as the 32nd member on Thursday.

Bettie Mae Fikes is a singer and civil rights activist from Selma, Alabama. Fikes was known as a "Bloody Sunday” foot soldier during the 1965 police attacks on civil rights protesters crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The first lady also invited Shawn Fain, the president of the United Auto Workers union, which last year held a strike that resulted in better worker salaries and benefits. Other union representatives are also expected to be in attendance. Last year, President Biden stood at the picket line during their strike in a historic first.

Gun control advocate Jazmin Cazares traveled the nation during her last year of high school to tell her sister Jackie's story. Jackie was one of the 19 students and two teachers killed during the 2022 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.