Who Is Ryan Reyes, Michelle Obama's State Of The Union Guest? His San Bernardino Connection Is Devastating
Michelle Obama's guest list for the State of the Union address is reflective of many of the issues for which both she and her husband, the president, advocate. Since the SOTU closely follows the president's executive order on intensifying background checks for gun buyers in an attempt to ameliorate America's terrifying epidemic of gun violence, gun control is bound to be a prominent topic of discussion. The issue tragically hits home for one of the First Lady's guests, Ryan Reyes, in particular. Reyes is a gun control activist whose life was changed after his partner Larry Daniel Kaufman, 42, was killed on Dec. 2, 2015 in the San Bernardino, Calif. mass shooting.
After hearing about the shooting, Reyes and his family received conflicting reports about whether or not Kaufman was alive. The Los Angeles Times reports it took 22 hours to find out that he was one of the 14 victims. Kaufman, who worked that the Inland Regional Center's coffee shop and trained disable employees there, had helped to save four lives before the shooters took his own, according to The Pride L.A.
Reyes, who is still suffering the loss of his partner whom he'd dated for three years, refuses to give into the mindset of those who condemn Islam as a religion. In a phone interview with ABC's local California affiliate station, he expressed why it's important that we embrace all Americans during this time.
By embracing Muslims in general, the Muslim community is going to be more apt to help us get rid of the radicalized version, but if you ostracize them, you're no better than the radical groups in, my opinion, if you're ostracizing people for no reason.
At this year's State of the Union, Reyes will represent a remarkable symbol of unity and tolerance in America, because after the San Bernardino violence, the Muslim community has sadly experienced intense backlash. Presidential candidates like Donald Trump have normalized Islamophobia among Americans by suggesting that mosques be shut down following the Paris attacks, among other ludicrous and exclusionary propositions. As a result of this, ignorant individuals have become inspired to act violently against the Muslim community as a whole.
For example, a Florida mosque was vandalized less than 24 hours after the San Bernardino mass shooting. Sharif Elhosseiny, the president of the Islamic center, expressed his concern for the community to the International Business Times.
We feel hurt because we've worked so hard to condemn terrorism. We've worked so hard to communicate to our community that Islam is not about these criminal terrorist attacks.
Reyes is one of 23 guests Michelle Obama has invited to the State of The Union, airing Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET.