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Struggling families, wounded troops Obama's guests

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[January 27, 2010]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- Not all of a president's political statements in the State of the Union address are made from the podium. Often, the seating arrangement in the visitor's gallery where the president's spouse sits also makes a significant statement.

HardwareAnd President Barack Obama's address Wednesday night is no exception. The guest list for his first State of the Union address provides a rough outline of what he will tell Congress about ongoing wars and an economic crisis that is slowing but hardly over. Stories of success and struggle are scattered throughout the guest list, from businesses started by immigrants in Massachusetts to families struggling to make ends meet.

The White House typically invites Americans to sit with the president's spouse in an elevated box overlooking the floor of the House; presidents typically point to the seats and discuss the guests' stories. Obama will do likewise, when he calls attention to people sitting with his wife, Michelle Obama, in the gallery.


Take Tina Dixon, a former stay-at-home mom whom Obama met when he visited a jobs training site in Allentown, Pa., that received funding from the economic stimulus package.

Or Dan Karner, the chief of an Arizona company that received $99 million from the stimulus bill, which helped him create at least 50 permanent clean energy jobs and saved others.

Or Julia Frost, of Jacksonville, N.C., a former Marine trumpeter studying to become a teacher at Coastal Carolina Community College with the help of the GI Bill. Frost met Jill Biden when the vice president's wife visited her school.

The White House also invited Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Rubin, who has served four combat tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, and Wisconsin Army National Guard volunteer Janell Kellett, whose husband recently returned to their home in Sun Prairie, Wis.

Others in the booth:

  • Cindy Parker-Martinez, of Belle Isle, Fla., whose family was denied health insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

  • Jeffrey Brown, who founded a Philadelphia-area chain of grocery stores that employs some 2,300 people.

  • Ping Fu, who participates in a Small Business Administration research program in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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  • Ecuador native Juan Yepez, who won an SBA award for his family's Lawrence, Mass., commercial real estate company.

  • Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, who stopped a gun-wielding Nidal Hasan when he opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas.

  • Rebecca Knerr, whose husband is leading a Northern Virginia-based task force of rescue workers in Haiti.

  • Deborah Powell, of Hugo, Okla., who tracks stimulus dollars for the Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

  • Retired Army Spc. Scott Vycital, who was partially paralyzed and now works for the Federal Highway Administration after Obama signed an executive order making employing veterans a priority.

  • Li Boynton, an 18-year-old from Bellaire, Texas, who has developed new ways to test the quality of drinking water and earned this year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair award.

[Associated Press; By PHILIP ELLIOTT]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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