Obama invites illegal immigrant to State of the Union

The Washington Times — Millions will watch Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, but only a couple of dozen will do so from the most important perch: the first lady’s box.

President Obama’s list this year includes a doctor working to stop the spread of Ebola, union workers benefiting from a stronger economy, a victim of gun violence, a government worker freed in a prisoner exchange as part of the outreach to Cuba, and an illegal immigrant who has remained in the country under Mr. Obama’s temporary deportation amnesty.

“Their grit and dedication represent what’s best about this country,” first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement inviting the rest of the country to tune in to watch along with her guests.

Part oratorical punctuation for the president’s priorities and part rose-tinted window into America’s soul, the box has hosted mayors and Marines, overachieving schoolchildren and visionary entrepreneurs, and the occasional heroic everyman who stepped up when the time called for it.

But they also serve as proxies for the rest of the country — the lucky few who represent everyone else.

“I constantly think back on it. It’s a lot like winning the lottery,” Chris Getsla, who at age 13 sat in the first lady’s box for President Clinton’s 1997 address to Congress. “I was very lucky to be chosen, very lucky to be part of it. I think back on it, reflect on it — a very important part of my life.”

Mr. Getsla was chosen along with a female classmate and their teacher because they were among the students in the Chicago suburbs who stunned the globe and became counterpunches to claims of American educational decline, tying for first in the world in science scores and placing second in math.

“They prove that when we aim high and challenge our students, they will be the best in the world,” Mr. Clinton said.

Steven Ramos attended in 2001, when President Bush delivered his first address to Congress in the chamber and issued a call for lawmakers to pass his tax cut proposal. Mr. Ramos and his wife were picked as examples of Americans who could benefit.

Mr. Bush highlighted the Ramoses during the 2000 campaign at stops in Pennsylvania, where the couple would be on stage with their daughter. But the State of the Union was a bigger stage.

Mr. Ramos said he remembered a press conference on Capitol Hill where he expected to be a silent example, but the congressman leading the press conference suddenly turned to him and asked whether he had any comments.

“I think I said something foolish, and we moved along,” Mr. Ramos recalled in a telephone interview last week.

Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff for first lady Laura Bush, said the president, first lady and other key staffers squirrel away ideas throughout the year based on letters they receive or people they meet.

Final decisions are made closer to the speech, when the president has settled on his priorities and has a better sense of the people who match his message.

“They’re looking to select individuals who reflect, from their perspectives in a positive way, their issues and priorities they have for the American people, and also reflect the generosity, the compassion, the example of the American spirit,” said Ms. McBride, who is now executive in residence at American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/19/state-of-the-union-guests-include-illegal-immigran/