Guests for the President's Speech

Guests for the President's Speech

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

One of the first lady's guests last night was Rebecca Garang de Mabior , the widow of the late Sudanese rebel leader John Garang. Her husband was killed in July, just three weeks after he had assumed the vice presidency of the country under the terms of a peace deal ending a 20-year civil war in Africa's largest country.

Two years ago, the White House dangled the prospect of an invitation to sit with the first lady to John Garang and the president of Sudan, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, if they completed the peace accord in time. But they were not able to reach an agreement, and one of the seats went to Ahmed Chalabi, then a Pentagon darling in the Iraqi resistance.

Other guests were:

· Fawzia Koofi , second deputy speaker of the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly and an advocate for the rights of women and children.

· Sayed Hamed Gailani , first deputy speaker of the Afghan parliament's upper house.

· Clarence W. "Bud" Clay Jr. and Sara Jo Clay , parents of Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay, 27, who was killed on his second tour of duty in Iraq. Joining them was Lisa Clay , the Marine's widow.

· Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jamie Dana and her bomb-sniffing military dog, Rex , who were deployed in Pakistan and Iraq, where she was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near the Humvee in which they were riding. She adopted Rex after President Bush signed the defense authorization bill that contained a provision exempting Rex from a law prohibiting his adoption before the end of his useful life.

· Army Sgt. Wasim Khan , a native of Pakistan who enlisted in the Army a year after his family moved to the United States in 1997. He was wounded in Iraq, and his awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation, Army Achievement (6), Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and Air Assault Badge. He speaks five languages.

· Navy Cmdr. Kimberly Evans , the first woman to command a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan. She earned the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

· Coast Guard AST2 Joel Sayers , who is credited with heroic efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, organizing the rescue of 167 people in New Orleans.

· Marine Corps Sgt. Nicholas "Nick" Graff , who is proficient in Arabic and was wounded in Iraq.

· Gary Slutkin , executive director of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and founder of CeaseFire Chicago, a strategic public health initiative that organizes law enforcement personnel, residents, clergy, medical professionals and youths to reduce violence.

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