Washington, D.C. – House Democrats will be joined by Americans from communities nationwide to hear President Obama lay out his vision to help create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow our economy. Members’ invited guests have been impacted by a wide array of issues that are expected to be addressed in the State of the Union. Below are some of those individuals who will be attending the speech as guests of House Democrats:
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will be joined by Eliseo Medina. Among Pelosi’s guests, Eliseo Medina is the International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where he leads the union's efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. Recently, Mr. Medina participated in the Fast for Families on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. When he was 10 years-old, he came to the United States from Mexico with his mother and siblings to join their father, who was an immigrant farm worker. “Eliseo’s efforts to pass immigration reform continue to inspire millions across our country. We must recognize that each generation of immigrants brings a determination and optimism that makes America more American. The time to pass comprehensive immigration with an earned pathway to citizenship is now,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will be joined by Lilly Ledbetter. After decades at her “dream job” as an area manager and supervisor for Goodyear in Gadsden, Alabama, Lilly discovered that the company had paid her 40 percent less than her male counterparts for the same work. “It was very humiliating to learn that I was being paid so much less than my white male peers for doing the exact same job and doing it well,” she said. Her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court and, in 2007, the court narrowly held that employees may not bring suit under federal law unless they have filed a complaint with a federal agency within 180 days of their pay being set, overturning years of precedent. Later, Congress took up her cause and passed the fair pay bill that bears her name, the first bill President Obama signed into law. “I am honored to be bringing Lilly Ledbetter as my guest to the State of the Union, which is one day before the fifth anniversary of the legislation that bears her name. Lilly’s strength, courage and selflessness have been a source of inspiration throughout our friendship. She has rightfully become the face of the fair pay movement and I know neither of us will rest until the wage gap is a historical relic.”
Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) will be joined by Omar Medrano. Omar, a senior in high school, potential top 10 percent graduate of his class, and a San Antonio ROTC DREAMer, arrived to the United States with his family when he was just 2 years old. Although Omar benefited from President Obama’s Deferred Action and has received offers to attend college, he will not be able to fulfil his lifelong dream of joining the U.S. Army due to his immigration status. “Unfortunately, in San Antonio and across the country stories like Omar’s and his family’s are far too common. Omar did what every American kid is told to do to get ahead, working hard in school, excelling at ROTC, and taking on a part-time job to support his family. Yet, our system will not allow him to serve in our armed forces and his family, who has supported and invested in his success, is under constant worry that they may not be able to share in the family’s American dream,” said Congressman Castro. “It is time for action from Congress and the President. We must fix our immigration system this year and finally fully welcome students and families like Omar’s into our American family.”
Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) will be joined by Maria Torres. Maria Torres is an undocumented youth, who came to Illinois when she was 15 years old. After she was brought to the U.S., Torres learned English, graduated from high school with honors, and received a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University in December 2012. Torres was granted work authorization through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but currently is ineligible for citizenship. Torres works at Family Focus in Aurora, IL, helping others navigate the immigration system. “Maria’s story is a powerful example of why we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We cannot continue to ignore our broken immigration system which has left millions of people like Maria in limbo. The time is now to pass comprehensive immigration reform which gives hardworking people like Maria a path to citizenship while reducing the federal deficit.”
Congressman Joe Garcia (D-FL) will be joined by Mayra Rubio Limon. Ms. Rubio Limon, born in Jalisco, Mexico, and a college freshman at Miami Dade College and DREAMer from Homestead, was brought to the United States as a young child. During high school, she was confronted with the reality of her legal status and feared for the worst. “Mayra embodies the spirit of all those who come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their families, yet are denied these opportunities because of their statuses as undocumented immigrants” said Garcia. "Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a top priority for Mayra, for the 11 million families in search of the American Dream. As the President addresses our nation tomorrow, it is my hope it will be his priority as well. It is not only the right thing to do for our communities, but also for our economy – one largely supported by the work of these immigrants."
Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) will be joined by Davide Dukcevich. Mr. Dukcevich is the co-owner of Daniele, Inc., a family business that started in Italy and produces gourmet Italian charcuterie today from its three Rhode Island plants that employ more than 300 people. Daniele has been in business for more than 60 years and is currently undergoing a $50 million expansion that will nearly double its manufacturing space and add hundreds of jobs between construction and, upon completion, manufacturing. Not only is Daniele a business success story, it is also at the forefront of a movement to make Rhode Island a “Culinary Valley.” “Bolstered by his family’s tradition of quality products and smart, sustainable business practices, Davide Dukcevich has made the Daniele brand synonymous with excellence,” said Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI). “Daniele has made a commitment to Rhode Island, expanding its manufacturing facilities, adding greatly-needed jobs and creating buzz about the Ocean State’s vibrant food economy.”
Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) will be joined by Coby Messier. Coby Messier of Albuquerque, NM was employed as a sheet metal worker for over a decade before being laid off in May 2012. He began collecting unemployment insurance while he looked for work, and was able to find another job in September of that year. Unfortunately, he was laid off once again in February 2013 due to a lack of available work and went on unemployment insurance to help make ends meet during his job search. On December 28, 2013, however, he was cut off from that vital economic lifeline when Congress failed to renew the program. Since then, his family of four has struggled to live on the salary of his wife, who serves as a public school teacher. Coby has been trying to start his own business, but that has been made more difficult since losing his unemployment insurance. “Every day Congress fails to renew unemployment insurance, it harms more and more New Mexicans and Americans just like my guest, Coby Messier – people who, in addition to fighting to find a job, now have to fight just to keep a roof over their head, feed their family and pay their bills. It’s long past time for Congress to stop putting New Mexico families in peril and do what’s right for our constituents, our communities and our economy,” Lujan Grisham said.
Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN) will be joined by Melanie Benjamin and Carrie Jones. Melanie Benjamin began serving her second term as Chief Executive of the Mill Lacs Band in 2012. Benjamin has served the American Indian Community through numerous boards and organizations at the local, state and national levels. At 33, Carrie Jones took office in 2012 as the first woman and youngest person ever to hold the elected position of Tribal Chair on the five-member Leech Lake Tribal Council. “The Ojibwa people and their elected leaders here in the Eighth District are so important, and contribute so much to our economy, our culture and our way of life here in northern Minnesota – I am honored to have Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin of the Mille Lacs Band and Tribal Chair Carrie Jones of the Leech Lake Band as my guests for what is traditionally the most important annual address the President of the United States makes to the American people,” Nolan said.
Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) will be joined by Brian Krueger. Mr. Krueger a steamfitter who was laid off from his job this past June, lost his unemployment insurance on December 28th because Congress failed to take action to extend this vital lifeline. Brian is one of more than 30,000 Wisconsinites, and 1.6 million Americans, who have lost their unemployment benefits over the last month. Brian would have been eligible for federal benefits at the end of December had they not expired. The Kruegers have applied for food stamps and the reduced lunch program for their two children, and are working with their mortgage company to keep up with their mortgage payments. “I am honored to bring Brian Krueger as my guest to the State of the Union,” Pocan said. “Even though more than 1.6 million Americans, including over 30,000 Wisconsinites, have already lost their unemployment benefits while Congress stands on the sidelines, numbers alone do not tell the full story of the devastating consequences of our inaction. Brian and his family know firsthand the challenges millions of out-of-work Americans face to support their families while tirelessly looking for a job.”
Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX) will be joined by Jason Roberts. Mr. Roberts is a small business owner, community activist, and resident of the 33rd Congressional district whose story demonstrates that Texans and all Americans can secure quality affordable health care under the Affordable Care Act. After being diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer, undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and enduring major abdominal surgery, he can now say he’s cancer free. As a cancer survivor, Jason still has regular CAT scans and urological appointments as part of his post treatment plan. For Jason and for millions of Americans, cancer treatments are an enormous out of pocket expense. Had it not been for the Affordable Care Act, Jason would have run out of options when his COBRA benefits expire in April 2014. “Jason Roberts is a true testament of how the ACA is working for all Americans, especially for individuals with a pre-existing condition,” said Congressman Veasey. “It is imperative that we get individuals properly informed about the benefits of ACA and get people enrolled in the federal marketplace in Texas.”
Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN) will be joined by Mayor Tom Kuntz. Mayor Tom Kuntz and Representative Walz have forged a strong, bipartisan working relationship since Walz first came to Congress in 2007. While they may not agree on everything, the pair have found ways to build coalitions around the things they do agree on, like smart investments in a 21st century American infrastructure system that will increase safety, drive economic opportunity, and create jobs in local communities across the country. “Mayor Kuntz has been an outstanding leader, advocate, and bipartisan partner in the push to build a 21st century infrastructure system in southern Minnesota. As we renew our efforts to pass a strong transportation bill in 2014, Congress should agree on what we can agree on and get this done,” said Representative Walz. Mayor Kuntz’s life epitomizes what it means to seize the American Dream. Upon graduation from Owatonna High School in 1963, Kuntz joined the U.S. Air Force and served for eight years in various locations around the world. After leaving the military to raise a family, he worked for over three decades for Owatonna Public Utilities, starting as a meter reader and working his way up to General Manager before his retirement in 2003.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) will be joined by Martin West. As a small business owner, Mr. West has been benefiting from the reforms of the Affordable Care Act after his wife, Melinda, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and underwent chemo and radiation. Last December, Martin signed his family up for their new health care plan on Healthcare.gov. Their former plan with Coventry Healthcare cost $757.32 a month and their benefits included a $10,000 deductible and $20,000 in out of pocket expenses. “Mr. West and his wife now have the peace of mind of knowing they cannot be dropped from their health insurance due to a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act continues to give American families and small businesses more control over their health care – and millions, like the Wests, are witnessing its benefits,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.