For nearly three decades, extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union Address have been invited to join the First Lady in her viewing box. From small business owners to young innovators, military heroes to health care reform beneficiaries – use the interactive feature below to learn more about the remarkable individuals who will join First Lady Michelle Obama for the 2011 State of the Union Address.
First Lady's Box at the 2011 State of the Union
Rollover to learn more about each guest invited
to sit with the First Lady.
First Lady Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the United States. Continuing a longstanding tradition, extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the President’s State of the Union Address attend the event as guests of the First Lady.
Dr. Jill Biden
Jill Biden is the wife of Vice President Biden. An educator and a proud Blue Star mom, Dr. Biden works to highlight the importance of community colleges, to raise awareness about the sacrifices made by military families, and to bring attention to women’s health issues.
Philip M. Schiliro is Assistant to the President and the Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs. Schiliro was the Director of Congressional Relations for the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama and a senior advisor to Senator Obama's presidential campaign. He has worked in the United States Congress for more than 25 years.
Gary and Robert Allen
Rochester Hills, MI
Gary and his brother Robert have been partners in the family business, Allen Brothers Inc., a roofing products manufacturing company, for 25 years. With the help of $500,000 from the Recovery Act, the Allen brothers were able to retool half of their manufacturing facility in order to manufacture solar shingles and launch a whole new business, Luma Resources.
Ursula M. Burns
Ursula M. Burns is the chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation. Ms. Burns was named by President Obama to help lead the White House national campaign on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in November 2009, and is on the board of Change the Equation, a coalition of over 100 CEOs focused on STEM education that the President announced in September 2010. She was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council in March 2010.
Amy, a sixteen-year-old high school junior from Richardson, Texas, has developed a photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy (PDT), an emerging cancer treatment that uses light energy to activate a drug that kills cancer cells. With her work, Amy won the first place Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, in May 2010. Amy met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair.
Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis
Santa Cruz, CA
Business partners Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis had a dream of opening an organic, homemade ice cream shop in Santa Cruz, California. With the help of a Recovery Act SBA loan of $250,000, Kendra and Zack were able to open the doors to The Penny Ice Creamery in August 2010. The SBA Recovery Act funding allowed them to not only open the shop, but also to employ eleven people, purchase American-made equipment, and to hire nearly twenty local businesses to design and renovate the space.
Brandon and Julie Fisher
Brandon Fisher is the owner Center Rock, a small business in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. Last summer, Center Rock manufactured the drill bits and other equipment used to find and rescue the 33 trapped Chilean miners. The technology enabled a considerable shortening of the rescue timeline. Brandon and his wife, sales director Julie, spent 37 days in Chile working to drill the rescue shaft. Brandon, along with some of the Americans involved in the Chilean mine rescue efforts, met the President in October 2010.
Brandon, a junior at West Philadelphia High School, is a leader of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, which includes students from an afterschool program at the West Philadelphia High School Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. Brandon and the Hybrid X team recently entered two cars in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition, a global challenge that sought to deliver production-ready, highly fuel efficient vehicles. They successfully went head-to-head with corporations, universities and other well-funded organizations, even advancing to an elimination round with their Ford Focus that got an official 65.1 MPGe.
The Green Family
John and Roxanna are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month. At just nine years old, Christina Taylor already had big plans to one day serve her country. Christina Taylor was born on 9/11 and had used her birthdate as a source of inspiration during her short life.
Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta
Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta, a native of Hiawatha, Iowa, enlisted in the United States Army in November 2003. Staff Sergeant Giunta has completed two combat tours to Afghanistan totaling 27 months of deployment. He received the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan in October 2007.
Daniel Hernandez is a student advocate and political activist from Tucson, Arizona. He currently serves as a Congressional Intern for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Director with the Arizona Students’ Association. Born in 1990, Daniel attended public schools in the Sunnyside Unified School District and is earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science as a junior at the University of Arizona.
Jim Houser and his wife have owned an auto repair shop in Portland, Oregon for over 25 years, and they don’t want to lose valuable employees. That’s why Jim has always provided health insurance to his employees. But in the last ten years, Jim has been forced to contend with skyrocketing premium increases, with premiums making up over 20 percent of his payroll. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Jim and small business owners like him are getting immediate relief. The health reform law provides tax credits for small businesses that offer employees health insurance. Jim estimates that the tax credits will save him over $10,000.
James Howard was diagnosed with brain cancer in March and later thought his lack of health insurance was a death sentence. Fortunately, he was able to join the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan and is now getting the treatment he needs.
Staff Sergeant Brian Mast and Brianna Mast
Staff Sergeant Brian Mast is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Four years ago he joined the Special Forces and was trained in bomb disposal. Staff Sergeant Mast deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010. He was seriously injured by a roadside bomb on September 19, 2010. He lost both legs just below the knee and an index finger. Staff Sergeant Mast suffered a broken arm, shrapnel wounds, and a damaged ear drum in the blast and is currently recovering at Walter Reed. Staff Sergeant Mast, his wife, Brianna, and their son, Magnum, met the Vice President and Dr. Biden at a Thanksgiving dinner for military families.
Gunnery Sergeant Nicole Mohabir
Fort Lee, VA
Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December 1991. Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir made her first deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from December 2002 to June 2003 with Combat Service Support Group-12. In 2004, she made her second deployment in support of OIF and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq. Gunnery Sergeant Mohabir deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in March 2010 and is currently back at her duty station in Fort Lee, Virginia.
Mikayla Nelson is currently a freshman at Central Catholic High School in Billings, Montana. As a middle schooler at Will James Middle School, she led her Science Bowl team to a 1st place finish at the National Science Bowl for the design document of their solar car. They also won 5th place in the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Junior Solar Sprint. Mikayla met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where she represented her Science Bowl team and exhibited their solar car.
Kathy Proctor grew up in Trinity, North Carolina where, after graduating, she went to work in the furniture industry like many others in the area. When she was laid off in 2009, Kathy began taking classes in biotechnology at Forsyth Technical Community College. Kathy will graduate in July 2011, with an Associate Degree in Science, and hopes to attain a job working as a bio-fuels analyst. Kathy met the President when he visited Forsyth Tech in early December 2010.
Dr. Peter Rhee
Dr. Peter Rhee is a United States Navy veteran and military surgeon, currently serving as the Chief of Trauma at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Rhee oversaw the medical care associated with Arizona's recent shooting tragedy, including the care of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Rhee has handled hundreds of battlefield injuries in two war deployments beginning in 2001.
Diego Vasquez, currently a freshman at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, was a member of the team from Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, Arizona that won a grant through the Lemelson-MIT Program’s InvenTeams initiative for their design of a fully adjustable motorized chair for persons who could primarily use it for physical therapy. Diego met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where he represented his team and demonstrated their chair.
Wendell P. Weeks
Wendell P. Weeks is chairman and chief executive officer of Corning Incorporated. He was named chief executive officer in April 2005 and chairman of the board in April 2007. He has been a member of the company’s board of directors since December 2000. Mr. Weeks began his career with Corning in 1983 in the corporate control group and moved through a variety of financial and business development roles.
Check out WhiteHouse.gov/sotu for an enhanced viewing experience of President Obama's State of the Union address and for opportunities to engage online with White House officials and even President Obama himself.
Read the full press release here.