On Tuesday, President Obama will stand before a joint session of Congress to deliver the State of the Union address. The annual speech will be Obama's sixth address, but this is the first year he's given the country a preview of his message before the big night; in recent weeks, Obama visited cities across the U.S. to deliver his address in person to those who are affected the most by his executive policies. Obama will continue this hands-on approach on Tuesday by inviting several everyday Americans to attend the SOTU address, where the focus will be how the president can work with Congress to better their lives on all levels.
The president will update the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the American people on where we stand as a country one year after his last address. He'll talk about the state of the economy; whether unemployment has gone down; what he's doing to help students achieve more; how Obamacare has helped Americans, and other issues that affect the lives of Americans the most. And in order to underscore how his administration has worked to address these issues, Obama has invited real-life Americans who are walking proof of the work he's done to improve the state of the union.
Here are the special, and unexpected, guests who will be sitting in the First Lady's Box at Tuesday's State of the Union address — many of which received invitations after writing letters to the president.
Malik Bryant From Chicago, Illinois
Malik is a 13-year-old seventh grader living on the South Side of Chicago, a neighborhood that is often plagued with violence. For Christmas, Malik wrote a letter to Santa asking not for toys but for safety. "All I ask for is for safety," he wrote. "I just wanna be safe." The letter was redirected to the White House, and Obama replied back that Malik's "security is a priority for me in everything I do as President."
Chelsey Davis From Knoxville, Tennessee
Chelsey is a student at Pellissippi State Community College, where Obama recently gave a speech and officially announced his ambitious plan, America's College Promise, which would offer students two years of free community college. Chelsey, who will graduate in 2015 with a B.A. in Nutritional Science and plans to do humanitarian work as an AmeriCorps VISTA, embodies the benefits of attainable education.
Rebekah Erler From Minneapolis, Minnesota
Rebekah is a 36-year-old working mom of two preschool-aged boys. She sent a letter to Obama in March recounting how her husband's construction business went under in the housing market crisis. But the real emphasis of the letter was how her family has been able to bounce back but only because both she and her husband worked hard. Obama wants to highlight her story as a representation of middle-class families who are overworked despite an improved economy.
Victor Fugate From Kansas City, Missouri
After first writing Obama three years ago, Victor got to thank him in July for his focus on health care and student loans. As an unemployed new father who obtained a degree and now works with low-income patients on obtaining health care, Victor sees firsthand how Obamacare helps Americans every day.
Katrice Mubiru From Woodland Heights, California
A career technical education teacher for the LA unified school district, Katrice wrote Obama in January 2012 encouraging him to support K-12, adult, and career technical education. Katrice has seen how important technical education is and how it can change students' lives, and she showed the president when he visited in July.
Astrid Muhammad From Charlotte, North Carolina
In May 2013, Astrid was diagnosed with a brain tumor; at the time she didn't have health insurance, so she delayed treatment. The wife and mother of two enrolled in Obamacare last year and was able to have surgery in August. She wrote the president afterwards essentially thanking him for saving her life.
Carolyn Reed From Denver, Colorado
Carolyn wrote to Obama relaying how she and her husband were able to expand their Silver Mine Subs franchise business, thanks to a loan from the Small Business Administration. The couple now own seven locations and are looking to continue their expansion. She also wrote that they were grateful for being covered under the Affordable Care Act.
Ana Zamora From Dallas, Texas
Ana wrote Obama in September thanking him for his administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, which granted her temporary relief and work authorization so that she could get a job related to her career path as she finished her last year at Northwood University in Texas. Since she has siblings who are U.S. citizens, her parents could be eligible for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program that Obama announced last November. Ana now mentors other students on how to request temporary relief through DACA.Images: MSNBC, Silver Mine Subs/Facebook, Getty Images (6)