Who gets invited to the first lady's box for the State of the Union address has helped highlight the president's agenda ever since President Ronald Reagan invited federal employee Lenny Skutnick, the hero of Flight 90 which crashed in the Potomac River in 1982, to attend his address.
This year's guest list is no exception -- bringing a spotlight to key achievements such as Obamacare and gay marriage rights while promoting the need for criminal justice reform, helping veterans and improving family leave among other goals. Meet the special guests of Michelle Obama.
Major Lisa Jaster is an engineer and graduate of West Point. She deployed in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jaster left active duty in 2007, but joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2012 and then took a leave of absence from Shell Oil to attend Ranger School after ban on women in combat was lifted.
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Braeden Mannering, 12, was inspired by attending the White House Kids' "State Dinner" and hearing President Obama and the first lady challenge kids to make a difference.
Taking that message to heart, he started a nonprofit called Brae's Brown Bags to provide healthy food to homeless and low-income people. He's motivated more than 2,600 volunteers according to the White House, provided more than 4,500 "brown bags" of good food as well as raised more than $52,000 for hunger relief. The sixth grader has also joined the speaker circuit at schools, conferences and legislative sessions.
Credit: Mannering family
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is invited to the address in recognition for the company's leadership in expanding access to computer science in schools and its support of Teach.org.
In addition, Microsoft announced a $75 million effort for computer science education. The company, under Nadella's leadership, has increased maternity leave to 20 weeks for new mothers and 12 weeks for non-birth parents -- an expansion of 8 weeks of paid leave benefits.
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Plaintiff Jim Obergefell holds a photo of his late husband John Arthur as he speaks to members of the media after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Obergefell and his partner sued to force their home state of Ohio, where same-sex marriage wasn't legal, to recognize their out-of-state union. Arthur died three months after the couple married in July 2013. After the landmark ruling, Obergefell said, "I felt more like an equal American than I had in a very long time."
Obergefell received a congratulatory call from President Obama as he stood on the steps of the Supreme Court. Obama told him, "Your leadership on this has changed the country."
French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with off-duty U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Spencer Stone (C), next to off-duty serviceman Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler (R) and U.S. ambassador to France Jane Hartley after a reception at the Elysee Palace in Paris on August 24, 2015, during which were awarded with France's top Legion d'Honneur medal in recognition of their bravery after they overpowered the train attacker.
Stone was injured while trying to subdue the suspect when he was slashed with a box cutter, nearly losing his finger. Stone was awarded the Purple Heart, the Airman's Medal and a promotion to Staff Sergeant.
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Governor Dan Malloy
President Barack Obama waves after speaking at a campaign rally for Democratic Governor Dan Malloy (R), up for re-election, at Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut, November 2, 2014.
Malloy, serving his second term as governor is recognized for pursuing "progressive priorities" identified by President Obama including criminal justice reform and gun safety laws after the Sandy Hook shooting. Connecticut was the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. It also passed a guaranteed sick leave law.
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Sue Ellen Allen - Criminal justice reformer
Sue Ellen Allen of Scottsdale, Ariz., poses in front of the White House in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016.
Allen is co-founder of a nonprofit, Gina's Team, that helps former prisoners re-enter society as well as a former inmate who made a new life for herself after being released from prison in 2009. Allen's organization helps support female prisoners in her state's prison system and once they're released. Gina's Team is named for Allen's cellmate who died in prison.
Credit: Evan Vucci/AP
Refaai Hamo - Refugee
A Syrian government anti-personnel missile tore through the complex Refaai Hamo designed and lived in with his family. He subsequently fled to Turkey struggling without a residence permit and diagnosed with stomach cancer. He finally received refugee status and was able to move to Troy, Michigan.
President Obama saw his story on the website Humans of New York and responded by writing, "Welcome to your new home. You're part of what makes America great."
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Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, shares a laugh with Greenwood County, S.C., Council Woman, Edith Childs in Aiken, S.C., Oct. 6, 2007.
Two people who inspired Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign are going to attend his final State of the Union address. The White House says they're Edith Childs of South Carolina, and Earl Smith, of Austin, Texas.
Childs' "Fired up!" and "Ready to go!" call and response became an unofficial slogan during Obama's 2008 and 2012 election campaigns. Obama invited Childs to the White House in 2009, honoring her for enthusiasm that helped carry him to the White House in his view.
Credit: Brett Flashnick/AP
Cary Dixon - Opioid reform advocate
President Barack Obama listens as Cary Dixon describes having an adult child struggle with a substance use disorder, during a community forum at the East End Family Resource Center in Charleston, W.Va., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Obama was in Charleston to lead a community discussion on prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic.
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Mayor Mark Luttrell
Republican Mark Luttrell is the Shelby County mayor in Tennessee. As mayor, he has created special courts for drug, mental health and veterans' cases for more effective rehabilitation possibilities for prisoners. Luttrell has also helped facilitate resources for those released from prison to assist them re-entering society to reduce recidivism. He served as Director of Corrections for Shelby Country, then elected sheriff in 2002, followed by becoming mayor in 2010.
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Lydia Doza, 24, a native American in Alaska, has benefitted from the Obama administration's Generation Indigenous Initiative for Native American youth. She's pursuing a degree in software engineering at Oregon Tech. Doza is an example of the president's emphasis on educating young Americans in the science and technology.
Mark Davis, inspired by concerns over climate change started a small business called WC Solar, which trains low-income people to install solar panels and helps them prepare for green tech jobs in Washington, D.C.
Cynthia K. Dias
Cynthia K. Dias is a Navy veteran and registered nurse. She now lives at Veterans Village in Las Vegas and works there as a volunteer. In 2014, the city announced it had housed every homeless veteran as part of the White House's Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
Veteran Earl Smith first met then-Senator Barack Obama in 2008 in Austin, Texas while director of security at a hotel. Smith gave Obama a military patch he wore in Vietnam while serving in an artillery brigade that sustained 10,041 casualties and received 13 Medals of Honor. Obama carried the patch throughout the campaign and it will be archived in the Obama Library.
Cedric Rowland is a lead navigator for Near North Health Service Corp. in Chicago, helping people find the best plans available with the Affordable Care Act. His assistance helped, among others, diabetic Stephanie Lucas, who will be watching the State of the Union from the White House, obtain low-cost subsidized insurance.
Born in Saudi Arabia of Pakistani parents, Shah enlisted in the U.S. Army after emigrating with his family to America in 2006. He served in Iraq and now helps vets transition between military and civilian life.
Victims of gun violence
There will be one empty, but very poignant seat in first lady Michelle Obama's box during President Barack Obama's final State of Union, on January 12, 2016, for the victims of gun violence. As the White House website explains, the empty seat is "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."
First lady's box
Guests in first lady Michelle Obama's box, including (L-R) Ryan Reyes, the partner of one of the victims of the San Bernardino shootings, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, communiity college student Jennifer Bragdon and Air Force Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone at the State of the Union.
Ryan Reyes lost his partner, Larry "Daniel" Kaufman in the Dec. 2 terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif. Kaufman saved four people by warning others before being shot and killed. Ryan has been vocal about tolerance writing, "The twisted actions and beliefs of a few should not be used to view the majority."
Jennifer Bragdon's presence highlights how community colleges are providing support for a large variety of students. Bragdon, 42, returned to school while working full-time to pursue a degree to become a middle school teacher. In 2015, Obama proposed a plan for free community college.
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First lady's box
(L-R) Cynthia K. Davis of Las Vegas, Gov. Dan Malloy of Connecticut, first lady Michelle Obama, and Wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden in the House chamber.
The first lady's guests included:
Gloria Balenski - Balenski and her husband, Norb, wrote President Obama a letter thanking him for Obamacare and policies that helped safeguard Norb's job at Chevrolet.
Chief Kathleen O'Toole - The police chief of Seattle, Washington tested a six-month pilot program for body-worn police cameras with the help of a $600,00 grant from the Department of Justice for greater public transparency.
Oscar Vazquez - Vaszquez came to the U.S. as a child from Mexico like many "dreamers." He returned to Mexico to apply for a visa. With the help of Sen. Dick Durbin he obtained a green card then enlisted in the Army. He is now a U.S. citizen.