State of the Union guest lists show political nature of invitations

Both President Biden and House Speaker Mike Johnson invited over a dozen guests for the speech, many of whom are prominent activists.
First lady Jill Biden listens as Jazmin Cazares, of Uvalde, Texas, talks about her efforts to reduce gun violence .
Posted at 12:03 PM, Mar 07, 2024

The State of the Union guest list generally includes citizens not actively in elected office, but their invitations are generally very political. 

The State of the Union is frequently among the most-watched political events of the year. In 2023, nearly 28 million Americans tuned in to watch President Joe Biden give his second State of the Union. 

Early Thursday, the White House released its list of guests who will join first lady Jill Biden in the gallery. The guest list could indicate issues President Biden could address during his speech. Among the issues could be reproductive rights.

Among the guests on President Biden's list include Kate Cox, a Texas woman denied an abortion after she learned she had a non-viable pregnancy. She eventually left the state of Texas to seek an abortion. 

Latorya Beasley, an Alabama woman who had an in vitro fertilization procedure canceled after a state court issued a ruling stating that Alabama's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all children, born and unborn, and without limitation, including frozen embryos, was also invited. The court added that it is not up to them to craft limitations to the act. 

The ruling prompted numerous health care organizations to cancel IVF procedures within Alabama as lawmakers scrambled to change the law to carve out exemptions to IVF procedures.

Biden hopes State of the Union address will show he's up to the job
President Joe Biden delivers a previous State of the Union address

Biden hopes State of the Union address will show he's up to the job

He hopes to showcase his wins on infrastructure and manufacturing, and push for Ukraine aid, tougher migration rules and restoring abortion access.


The issue of gun violence could also arise during the speech as President Biden invited Jazmin Cazares to the State of the Union. Cazares' Jackie was killed in 2022 during the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Cazares has been an outspoken proponent of stiffer gun laws. 

The gallery could also include some familiar, more political names. 

Among them is journalist Maria Shriver, who will attend as she is the founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and strategic adviser on Women’s Health and Alzheimer’s at Cleveland Clinic. 

Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, will also attend. In 2023, Fain led a union strike against the Big Three automakers, which came to an end in October. The White House said the strike won "historic pay increases, greater retirement security, more paid leave, and more dignity and respect" for workers. 

The full list of President Biden's invitees is on the White House website.

Ukraine's first lady declines State of the Union invitation
Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska.

Ukraine's first lady declines State of the Union invitation

The White House said at a news conference that Olena Zelenska was sent an invitation and that it wasn't clear why she declined.


Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Johnson announced his guests for the address. 

His guest list could be a good indication of how Republicans plan to respond to President Biden's address. 

Among Johnson's guests include New York Police Lt. Ben Kurian and Officer Zunxu Tian. The two members of NYPD were involved in an encounter with migrants in January of this year. Prosecutors say several people, who have been identified as migrants, assaulted the officers who were trying to disperse a crowd. 

Tammy Nobles, mother of Kayla Hamilton, will be on hand. An MS-13 gang member allegedly killed Hamilton. 

A recent Gallup poll indicated that Republicans are far more likely to list immigration as the No. 1 issue facing the U.S. this year. At the same time, Democrats were more likely to list the economy and abortion. 

Johnson also is inviting several anti-transgender rights activists to his speech. Among them, Chloe Cole, an 18-year-old who has spoken out against gender-affirming care after going through a transition of her own at age 12. Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who objects to the inclusion of transgender athletes in women's athletics, was also invited by Johnson. 

Johnson is also inviting Orna and Daniel Neutra, who had family captured by Hamas during the attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Mia Schem, a French-Israeli citizen captured by Hamas and released in December, will also be on hand. 

The full list of Johnson's invitees is available on the speaker's website.