News & Politics

Here's Why Obama Will Leave One Seat Empty at the State of the Union Address

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: First Lady Michelle Obama, center, greets Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, upon arriving in the House Chamber of the Capitol before her husband, President Barack Obama, delivered his State of the Union address. Remsburg was wounded during an IED attack in Afghanistan. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Hosting symbolic guests in the first lady’s guest box at the State of the Union address has become a recent tradition since Nancy Reagan began the practice in 1982. President Obama will put a pointed spin on the gesture this year.

We leave one seat empty in the First Lady’s State of the Union Guest Box for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice – because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence – survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.

The last time a seat was left empty in the first lady’s guest box was in 2003. Then, it was meant to represent “the empty place many Americans will always have at their tables and in their lives because of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.” Of course, that was a unifying gesture meant to bring the country together. This will be a divisive thumb in the eye of American gun owners and those who otherwise support the Second Amendment.