First lady Michelle Obama’s guests at tomorrow night’s State of the Union speech include Boston Marathon bombing survivors and an NBA player who came out as gay last April.
Jason Collins, who most recently played for the Washington Wizards, became a free agent over the summer. He’ll be seated in the box with Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett during the president’s address to a joint session of Congress.
“In his 12 years in the league, Collins’ teams earned 9 trips to the playoffs including 2 NBA Finals appearances. In April 2013, Collins became the first male player in major American team sports to come out openly as gay,” the White House said in this morning’s announcement. “The President expressed his gratitude to Collins for his courageous announcement through an article Collins penned himself. The President said he ‘couldn’t be prouder’ of Collins, recognizing this as a point of progress for the LGBT community, and one more step in America’s goal to treat everyone fairly and with respect.”
Also sitting with Obama and Biden will be Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman. Carlos, wearing his white cowboy hat, was captured in an iconic image of that day rushing a badly injured Jeff away from the bombing to safety.
“From his intensive care hospital bed, Jeff played a vital role in identifying the bombers. After losing both legs in the attack, he is battling back, describing himself as a quick healer and stronger now than he was before the attack. Jeff, 27, and Carlos, 53 and a Gold Star Father, have become close friends,” the White House said.
Moore, Okla., fire chief Gary Bird is another guest, as he “represents all of those who rallied together to help the community of Moore, Oklahoma – firefighters, police officers, teachers, neighbors – in its greatest time of need” after an EF5 tornado hit the town in May.
Other guests will be Kathy Hollowell-Makle, 2013’s District of Columbia Public School’s Teacher of the Year, and Joey Hudy, a 16-year-old entrepreneur and Intel’s youngest intern who brought a marshmallow cannon to the White House’s 2012 science fair.
Additional guests will be announced in the run-up to the speech, the White House said.