The State of the Union address has become the quintessential opportunity for the President — and the First Lady — to shape policy and perception. One way is by inviting people whose life stories are compelling and relevant to the national conversation and the direction the President wants to take the country.
The First Lady has invited almost two dozen people, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, a 102-year old retired farmworker and naturalized U.S. citizen from Haiti who stood in line for three hours to vote — on her second attempt, a first grade teacher from Sandy Hook Elementary School, several members of the military, several medical professionals, a small business owner, a DREAM student, and the winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Via The White House:
The following individuals will be seated in the box with theÂ FirstÂ LadyÂ and Dr. Biden at the State of the Union Address:
Sergeant Sheena Adams (Vista, CA)
Team Advisor & Lead Instructor, Female Engagement Team
A native of Kauai, Hawaii, Sergeant Adams joined the Marine Corps in 2003 and attended recruit training in Parris Island, S.C.Â In 2010, Sergeant Adams joined the Female Engagement Team (FET) and was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan from September 2010 to April 2011 in direct support of 1st Battalion 8th Marines in Musa Qalâ€™eh District.Â Sergeant Adams received her Combat Action Ribbon and Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medal (second award) after successful completion of the deployment.Â In September 2011, Sergeant Adams returned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Advisor Training Cell, as Team Advisor/Liaison and lead FET instructor, where she re-engineered the Period of Instruction for future FETs.
Alan Aleman (Las Vegas, NV)
Alan Aleman was born in Mexico City, Mexico.Â In high school, Alan watched his friends come of age â€“ driving around town with their new licenses and earning some extra cash from their summer jobs at the mall.Â Although Alan knew he could not do those things because of his immigration status, he was determined to get a good education. Â Last year, when Alan heard the news that the Obama Administration was going to provide Deferred Action for undocumented youth like him to emerge from the shadows, he was one of theÂ firstÂ to sign up.Â Alan was among theÂ firstÂ people in Nevada to get approved.Â In that moment, Alan said, â€œI felt the fear vanish.Â I felt accepted.â€ Â Today, Alan is in his second year at the College of Southern Nevada.Â Heâ€™s studying to become a doctor and he hopes to join the Air Force.Â Alan is currently working at Hermandad Mexicana, where he is in charge of final review for DACA applications.
Jack Andraka (Crownsville, MD)
Winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
Jack Andraka, 16, of North County High School, was awardedÂ firstÂ place for his new method to detect pancreatic cancer at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2012, a program of Society for Science & the Public. Motivated by the death of his uncle due to pancreatic cancer, Jack created a simple dip-stick sensor based on diabetic test paper to test blood or urine to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. His study resulted in over 90 percent accuracy and showed his patent-pending sensor to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests. President Obama strongly believes that we need more students like Jack who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and has hosted two White House Science Fairs to celebrate students participating in such competitions.
Susan BumgarnerÂ (Norman, OK) Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Early Childhood Educator
Susan Bumgarner’s home state of Oklahoma is a national leader in providing access to high quality preschool for all children, and she has been an early educator in the Oklahoma system for more than twenty years. Susan was educated at the University of Oklahoma and influenced by family members who taught and studied there.Â Susan has written curriculum, trained Head Start teachers, taught infants and toddlers, and prepared parents by teaching Early Birds readiness class.Â In 1992 Susan began teaching pre-kindergarten at what is now Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School, a public school.Â â€œMy work is enthralling and my students are amazing, creative, intelligent people,â€ she said.Â â€œIt is an honor to facilitate their playful transition into the formal world of learning.â€
Deb Carey (New Glarus, WI)
Small Business Owner, New Glarus Brewing Company
Deborah Careyâ€™s decision to start New Glarus Brewing Company was rooted in doing what was best for her family.Â As she worked on a business plan, her husband Dan, a master brewer, gathered the materials, grains and equipment needed for start-up.Â In 1993 they negotiated to rent a warehouse in New Glarus, exchanging the lease for stock in the New Glarus Brewing Company.Â They sold their home and raised $40,000 in seed money, but still needed more funding. Deborah pitched her story to local newspapers, and the media attention brought $200,000 from investors.Â In the early days, the couple worked hard to establish the breweryâ€™s reputation for consistent quality beers and developed a very loyal customer base. Today, New Glarus Brewing Company has grown to 50 full-time employees, and registered growth in profits of 123 percent from 2007 to 2009, becoming Wisconsinâ€™s number one micro-brewery relative to sales volume.
Sergeant Carlos Evans, USMC (Cameron, NC)
Sergeant Evans, born in Puerto Rico, was on his fourth overseas deployment when he sustained injuries in Afghanistan that resulted in the loss of both of his legs and his left hand.Â Recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center, Sergeant Evans met theFirstÂ LadyÂ and later visited the White House for a Wounded Warrior Tour.Â At that time, the President signed his prosthetic arm.Â Â He credits the support he has received from private organizations to theÂ FirstÂ LadyÂ and Dr. Bidenâ€™s efforts in Joining Forces.Â In 2012, he received a custom home from Operation Coming Home and now resides in North Carolina with his wife and two young daughters.
Tim Cook (Cupertino, CA)
CEO of Apple
Before being named CEO in August 2011, Tim was Apple’s Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for all of the companyâ€™s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Appleâ€™s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Appleâ€™s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.
Prior to joining Apple, Tim was vice president of Corporate Materials for Compaq and was responsible for procuring and managing all of Compaqâ€™s product inventory. Previous to his work at Compaq, Tim was the chief operating officer of the Reseller Division at Intelligent Electronics. Tim also spent 12 years with IBM, most recently as director of North American Fulfillment where he led manufacturing and distribution functions for IBMâ€™s Personal Computer Company in North and Latin America.
Tim earned an M.B.A. from Duke University, where he was a Fuqua Scholar, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University.
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr. (Chicago, IL)
Cleopatra and Nathanielâ€™s daughter Hadiya Pendleton was murdered on January 29, 2013, when she was shot and killed in Harsh Park on Chicagoâ€™s South Side. Hadiya had participated in President Obamaâ€™s public inaugural celebration on January 21, 2013.Â She was an honor student and band majorette at King College Prep High School.Â Â FirstÂ LadyÂ Michelle Obama attended Hadiyaâ€™s memorial service on Saturday, February 6th.
Menchu de Luna Sanchez (Secaucus, NJ)
Registered Nurse, NYU Langone Medical Center
When Hurricane Sandy cut the power at NYU Langone Medical Center, Menchu Sanchez, a Registered Nurse, devised a plan to transport twenty at-risk infants to intensive care units around the city.Â She organized the nurses and doctors to carefully carry the babies down eight flights of stairs with only cell phones to light the way.Â Even as Menchuâ€™s own home was flooding, she thought only of protecting the babies in her care.Â Menchu was born, raised, and educated in the Philippines and she immigrated to the United States in the 1980s.Â She has worked as a nurse in New York for more than 25 years, and has been at NYU since 2010. Â Menchu currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children, both of whom are in college.
Bobak Ferdowsi (Pasadena, CA)
Flight Director, Mars Curiosity Rover
Bobak Ferdowsi, aka NASAâ€™s â€œMohawk Guy,â€ is a member of the Mars Curiosity rover team at NASA and Caltechâ€™s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.Â After the successful landing of the Curiosity rover in August 2012, President Obama called to congratulate the team on their success, and singled out Bobak for his unique haircut that captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. The Curiosity rover is a car-sized robot equipped with a laser, chemistry set, and drill for assessing whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms. Bobak is an Iranian-American and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professional who, in addition to his inspiring day-to-day work on the Mars Curiosity mission, volunteers as aÂ FIRSTÂ robotics mentor to get more boys and girls excited about STEM education.
Bradley Henning (Louisville, KY)
Machinist, Atlas Machine and Supply
Bradley Henningâ€™s high school has one of the best machining programs in Kentucky.Â He got hooked on machining in his sophomore year, and by the time he graduated, Bradley had taken enough vocational classes to get hired as a full-time apprentice with Atlas Machine and Supply in Louisville, Kentucky. Â For the past four years, Bradley has worked under a veteran machinist and is taking additional classes to earn his full certification.Â Today, at 23, he is a card-carrying Journeyman Machinist at Atlas, and responsible for mentoring the next generation of apprentices.Â Bradley is committed to a career in manufacturing and sees a bright future ahead. â€œThis is going to be my lifelong career,â€ he said. â€œI come in every day with a smile on my face. I learn something new every dayâ€¦I love that.â€
Tracey Hepner (Arlington, VA)
Co-Founder, Military Partners and Families Coalition
Tracey is a co-founder of the Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC), which provides support, resources, education, and advocacy for LGBT military partners and their families.Â Outside of her work with MPFC, Tracey works full time for the Department of Homeland Security as a Master Behavior Detection Officer.Â She is married to theÂ firstÂ openly gay or lesbian general officer in the military, Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith.
Peter Hudson (Evergreen, CO)
Co-Founder and CEO, iTriage
Dr. Peter Hudson, the co-founder and CEO of iTriage, is a physician and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience founding and growing healthcare-related businesses. His focus has been on creating efficiencies within the healthcare delivery system, and empowering healthcare consumers with technology.Â Using open government data,Â Dr. Hudson launched iTriage in 2009, a company focused on prompting citizens to actively engage in their own healthcare. Through the app, an example of government inspired innovation, smartphone users can locate nearby providers based on their symptoms, make appointments, store their personal health records, save medication refill reminders, and learn about thousands of medications, diseases and procedures.
Governor John Kitzhaber (D-OR)
Governor John Kitzhaber has built on his experience as a former emergency room doctor to transform health care delivery in Oregon. Now in his third term, Governor Kitzhaber is working with the Obama administration to scale up innovative models that show how government can do more with less. These performance partnerships, which emphasize federal flexibility and local accountability, are key to achieving improved health care outcomes and efficiencies, better results for our students and building the infrastructure we’ll need to unleash the 21st century economy.
Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers (Avondale, AZ)
Marie Lopez Rogers served on the Avondale City Council for 14 years before being elected as the cityâ€™sÂ firstÂ Latina Mayor in 2006.Â Growing up in migrant farm labor camps and picking cotton alongside her parents in fields where her City Hall now stands, Mayor Rogers never imagined that she would be guiding the transformation of the region.Â Mayor Rogers currently serves as Chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments.Â In Dec. 2012, she was named president of the National League of Cities, an organization dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. She and her husband Ed have been married for 43 years and have three children and six grandchildren.
Amanda E. McMillan (Jackson, MS)
Pay Discrimination Victim
For a number of years Amanda McMillan worked as a secretary for the owner of a Forrest City Grocery Company. She was doing many of the same duties as male salespeople, but at lower pay. Despite repeatedly asking to be officially promoted to the better and higher-paying job in sales, she was told by the company that the job of a salesman was too dangerous for a woman, and that she would not be a good mother if she were on the road meeting customers. With the help of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), she sued the company for sex discrimination. The lawsuit charged that Forrest City Grocery denied sales positions to an employee because she was a woman and paid McMillan less than men doing the same work. When asked why she has pursued the case, McMillan said, â€œIâ€™m doing this because it was wrong and I could never look my girls in the face and then tell them they live in America and could be anything they wanted to be.â€As a result of the suit, Forrest City Grocery agreed to pay $125,000 in monetary damages and agreed to disseminate employment policies to employees and provide ongoing training for management on sex discrimination. Amanda, a mother of three, currently lives in Jackson, MS.
Lee Maxwell (Wilton, IA)
Graduate, Kirkwood Community College Wind Technician Program
In 2012, Lee Maxwell graduated from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.Â Â He gained twenty six separate certifications in everything from reading blueprints to driving forklifts.Â Today, heâ€™s responsible for turning on the power for new wind turbines that are being built all around the country.Â Â Kirkwood started its wind technician training program three years ago in partnership with Iowa-based Clipper Windpower, combining an industry-based curriculum and donated equipment to give students the hands-on experience they need to succeed.
Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Oak Creek, WI)
Lieutenant Brian Murphy was theÂ firstÂ police officer to arrive at the scene of the tragic Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last August.Â Lt. Murphy directly confronted the shooter, and took fifteen bullets to his head, neck, and body before the rest of the police force arrived. Â When his fellow officers moved to assist him, he waved them off and told them to protect the threatened citizens who remained in the temple. When asked how he was able to respond with such bravery, Lt. Murphy responded, â€œThatâ€™s just the way weâ€™re made.â€ Today, Lt. Murphy is on medical leave from the force and still recovering from his injuries.Â Lt. Murphy has served as a police officer for more than twenty years and previously served in the Marine Corps and the United National security force.Â He lives with his wife and children in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Lisa Richards (Arlington, VA)
Lisa Richards, a single mom, was one of thousands of Americans who shared stories about what paying $2,200 more in taxes would mean for her family by using #My2K. She wrote, â€œIt’s 20 weeks of groceries, two years worth of gasoline, 1/3 of a new roof (which I need), six months of utilities.â€ With the passage of the middle class tax cuts at the beginning of the year, Lisa and millions of Americans like her did not see did not see anÂ incomeÂ tax increase.Â Born in Philadelphia and raised in New York and Dallas, Lisa has called the Washington, DC area home for more than 25 years. She now lives in Arlington, Virginia with her seven-year-old daughter working freelance and contract work for a variety of website clients.
Kaitlin Roig (Greenwich, CT)
1stÂ Grade Teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary School
Kaitlin Roig has taughtÂ firstÂ grade for six years at Sandy Hook Elementary, and has always had a passion for education and working with children.Â SheÂ attended and received her Masterâ€™s degree from the NEAG School of Education at the University of Connecticut, where she was a member of the Order of Omega Honor Society, The Historical HonorÂ Society, and the NEAG honor society.Â In addition to her teaching, Kaitlin also started a running club called Marathon Mondays for third and fourth grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary.Â She will be running the New York City Marathon this year.
Abby Schanfield (Minneapolis, MN)
Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Abby would have lost coverage upon turning 21 and would not have been able to obtain care due to her several pre-existing conditions.Â Abby is a member of TakeAction Minnesotaâ€™s healthcare team, a grassroots organization that advocates for progressive policies ranging from health care to economic reform.Â Abby was influenced by her experiences growing up with a chronic illness, and the privileges that come with being insured.Â A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Abby hopes to work in public policy, focusing on womenâ€™s and community health.
Haile Thomas (Tucson, AZ)
Letâ€™s Move!Â Champion
Haile Thomas is a 12 year-old Youth Advisory Board member with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.Â She is Co-Founder/Director of the HAPPY Organization, an Arizona nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and wellness of youth through education, outreach, and advocacy about proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. Haile hosts an annual H.E.A.L. (healthy eating, active lifestyle) Festival on Global Youth Service Day in Tucson. She created the Healthy Girl Adventures Club to inspire girls to embrace healthy habits, and produces online cooking videos aimed at encouraging kids to get cooking. Haile is also the Youth Spokesperson and Jr. Chef Consultant for Hyatt Hotels.
Desiline Victor (Miami, FL)
Desiline Victor, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Haiti and retired farmworker, is 102 years old. On October 28, theÂ firstÂ Sunday of early voting in Florida, Desiline went to vote at her polling place, a local library. When she arrived at 10:00 a.m., wait times were up to six hours. Determined to vote, she stood in line for three hours, until 1:00 p.m. After citizen advocates complained that the elderly woman was struggling on her feet, a poll worker asked Desiline to come back at a later time. On Desilineâ€™s second visit that evening, she was finally able to cast her ballot. When she emerged from the building with her â€œI Votedâ€ sticker, the crowd of thousands of waiting voters erupted into applause. Several voters remarked that the lines were long, and they needed to get home, but because of Desiline they would continue to stand and wait. Desiline resides in North Miami, where she is lovingly known as â€œGrannyâ€ among the cityâ€™s Haitian community. A spirited and independent centenarian, she enjoys attending church services and cooking her own meals.
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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”
The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”
Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.
The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.
“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.
After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.
Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.
“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” pic.twitter.com/0r9JmBl4zo
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 3, 2023
“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”
“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.
National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”
Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”
Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”
Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”
Watch the video above or at this link.
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