Pointing into the Gallery


The State of the Union address is a stuffy affair to watch — unless one is lucky enough to be sitting in the gallery (which I did one year when Bill Clinton was President).
The President often tries to make a point by pointing up at the gallery at some hero, or foreign leader, or wife of some fallen person, or a businessman that deserves recognition for selflessness.
I’ve already commented on one person on the President’s guest roster tonight, but here is the entire list of Presidential guests — most all of them there to underscore a point in the President’s priorities:

— Jenna and Barbara Bush, the twin daughters of the president and the first lady.
— Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.
— Lori Ball of Brookville, Ind., who has received help from the HOPE NOW alliance that helps people struggling to pay their mortgages.
— James “Jim” Barnard, the chief financial officer of Barnard Manufacturing in St. John’s, Mich., a small business that stands to benefit from an economic stimulus package that the Bush administration supports.
— Staff Sgt. Craig Charloux of Bangor, Maine, who served in Iraq for 14 months and served as a leader of an Armored Reconnaissance Squadron. He was seriously wounded by two grenade blasts but was able to successfully complete the raid, in which eight al-Qaida operatives were killed.
— Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Donna Shalala, who served as Health and Human Services Secretary under President Clinton. The two co-chaired the commission charged with helping wounded military veterans get better health care and return to civilian life.
— Blanca Gonzalez, who lives in Miami, Fla. She is the mother of Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, a Cuban political prisoner arrested in He has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for reporting on the conditions of Cuba’s state-run services and for criticizing the government’s management.
— Steve Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser.
— Steve Hewitt, administrator of Greensburg, Kan., whose city was almost entirely destroyed by a tornado in May but has made progress in recovering.
— 1st Lt. Andrew Kinard of the United States Marine Corps, who was deployed to Iraq and lost both legs when he was struck by an improvised explosive device. He is an outpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
— Dr. Bill Krissoff of the United States Navy Medical Corps. He applied to the Navy Medical Corps after his oldest son, Marine 1st Lt. Nathan Krissoff, was killed in combat in Iraq.
— Tara Kunkel, an emergency room nurse in Indianapolis, Ind. One of her patients admitted herself to the hospital after reading an interview with Mrs. Bush in which the first lady described the signs and symptoms of hearts attacks in women.
— Senior Airman Diane Lopes, who entered the U.S. Army in 1991 and joined the Air Force Reserves in January 2003. Lopes was wounded by a rocket attack in Iraq and is undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
— Irvin Mayfield, a jazz musician from New Orleans, who has helped aid the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
— Dan Meyer, assistant to President Bush for legislative affairs.
— Petty Officer Willard “Wil” Milam of the United States Coast Guard, who rescued four people in the Bering Sea in February 2007 after locating a life raft from a boat that sunk an hour earlier. His military decorations total nearly 45 awards.
— Alma Morales Riojas, president and CEO of MANA, the oldest national Latina membership organization in the United States.
— Tara D. Morrison, the superintendent of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City.
— Tatu Msangi, a 35-year-old single mother and registered nurse from Tanzania, and her 2-year-old daughter, Faith Mang’ehe. After discovering she was HIV-positive, Tatu enrolled in a program designed to prevent transmission from mother to child. She delivered a healthy daughter, Faith, who is HIV-free.
— Staff Sgt. Andrew Nichols of the United States Marine Corps. He has served multiple tours in Iraq and was able to return recently to the United States when his unit was successfully replaced by a division of the Iraqi army.
— Michelle Rhee, the new chancellor of the District of Columbia public school system.
— Dr. Thomas “Tom” M. Stauffer, who is president, CEO and professor of management at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
— Kevin Sterne, a student at Virginia Tech, who was shot twice in the right leg during the massacre there last April. He was able to stop his own bleeding to help save his life, and he has since returned to Virginia Tech to pursue a master’s degree.
— Eric Whitaker, a team leader of a provincial reconstruction team in Baghdad, Iraq.

— Steve Clemons


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