WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will not be the only one delivering a message during the State of the Union address on Tuesday. Members of Congress along with the White House will also be making symbolic statements with the guests they invite to attend the annual speech.
Invited guests this year reflect the pressing issues facing Congress and Obama, who is expected to focus on the economy as well as immigration and gun control.
While some will sit in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Representatives overlooking members of Congress, other guests will join First Lady Michelle Obama in another area.
Here are some of those expected to attend:
Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress are bringing victims of gun violence to offer faces and voices in their effort to overhaul the nation’s gun laws.
Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, who recently launched their own group aimed at reforming gun laws, will attend as guests of Arizona lawmakers Senator John McCain, a Republican, and Representative Ron Barber, a Democrat. Brady Campaign President Dan Gross will also attend with his brother Matt, whose was wounded in a 1997 shooting.
Others include a fourth-grade student from Newtown who become a gun control advocate in the wake of the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 20 students and 6 educators, as well as Natalie Hammond, a Sandy Hook teacher who was shot in the attack.
Michelle Obama will be joined by the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teenager slain by gun fire in a park near her high school days after performing at the president’s inauguration last month. She also invited Kaitlin Roig, another Sandy Hook teacher.
Representative Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican, said rock musician and pro-gun activist Ted Nugent will be his guest. U.S. Secret Service agents last year interviewed Nugent, a board member for the National Rifle Association, for comments he made about Obama during the presidential campaign.
“I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber to hear from President Obama,” Stockman wrote in a statement. “After the address I‘m sure Ted will have plenty to say.”
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Tim Cook will attend the speech as a guest of the first lady, who last year also showcased technology leaders. In 2012, she invited the widow of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, as well as Mike Krieger of Instagram, now part of Facebook Inc (FB.O).
NASA‘S MOHAWK GUY
Bobak Ferdowsi, the spike-haired NASA flight engineer who gained notoriety last summer during the much-vaunted landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, will also sit in the first lady’s box. The flight engineer’s punk-rock hairstyle became an Internet sensation and also helped draw attention to the government agency, especially among youth.
Desiline Victor, another guest of the first lady, may be the oldest guest watching the speech in person Tuesday. The 102-year-old Haitian immigrant of Florida waited for three hours to vote early for the president in late October before being told to return later to avoid the crowd. Victor, a naturalized citizen, eventually cast her ballot and has since become the face of voting reform. Activists want the system overhauled after many faced long lines in the November 2012 election.
-American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern, whose organization offered relief after Hurricane Sandy and other recent disasters, is a guest of House Speaker John Boehner.
-Boehner, an Ohio Republican, also invited Ted Kremer, a 30-year-old with Down syndrome and bat boy with the Cincinnati Reds baseball team whose story became popular after local media reports.
-Avondale, Arizona Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers, another Michelle Obama guest, became the city’s first Latina mayor in 2006 and is also president of the National League of Cities.
-Amanda McMillan of Jackson, Mississippi, who sued a local grocer for allegedly being denied a promotion based on her sex, will attend with the first lady.
-Singer Tony Bennett is a guest of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman