The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

State of the Union guests to include Bono and Paul Pelosi

Bono, lead singer of U2, arrives at the White House on Dec. 4, 2022. He has also been invited to the State of the Union address. (Al Drago/For The Washington Post)
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Seeing who shows up as a guest to a president’s State of the Union address is like reading a brief on the administration’s agenda for the next year. The occupants of first lady Jill Biden’s viewing box for President Biden’s second such address to a joint session of Congress were carefully selected because of their personal relevance to themes the leader will bring up in his speech, or to a priority of the administration. And that includes Bono.

Instead of accepting standing ovations, the U2 lead singer will be giving them by the first lady’s side on Tuesday night. He was invited for his activism in fighting HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty. The Dubliner helped build public support for PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), which President George W. Bush founded in 2003, and his (RED) brand partnerships have raised over $700 million to fight the disease in Africa.

Alongside him will be Paul Pelosi, the 82 year-old husband of Nancy Pelosi, “speaker emerita” of the House.

Paul Pelosi was violently attacked with a hammer in a politically motivated break-in to their San Francisco home. He’d made his first public appearance since the attack at the Kennedy Center Honors in December.

Joining them will be second gentleman Doug Emhoff; Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the shooter who killed 11 people and injured 10 others at a Lunar New Year Celebration in Monterey Park, Calif.; and RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, mother and stepfather to Tyre Nichols, the 29 year-old unarmed Black man who was beaten by police officers during a traffic stop in Memphis before dying from his injuries.

A repeat guest will be Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador, who will be appearing just a little over a month since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s fierce visit to the White House.

Biden will be giving his speech after the release of a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that the majority of Americans do not believe he has accomplished much since taking office, despite legislative victories like protecting same-sex marriage or passing the Inflation Reduction Act. He’s expected to hit the road to promote his agenda right after the speech, amid strong indications that he plans to run again in 2024.

Other invitees include cancer survivors who support the administration’s Cancer Moonshot program; beneficiaries of the first lady’s Joining Forces initiative to help military families; a member of the Navajo Nation, which the first lady visited in April 2021; a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient; small business owners; an aspiring teacher; an ironworker from Pennsylvania; a college football player advocating for mental health; and Kate Foley, a 10th-grader from Rolling Meadows, Ill., who hopes to become a biomedical engineer.

Also present will be Amanda Zurawski from Austin, who nearly lost her life to sepsis when she miscarried and was unable to get an abortion due to Texas’s restrictive abortion laws; Deanna Branch, a mother of two from Milwaukee, whose family battled health problems from lead exposure in their drinking water; Doug Griffin of Newton, N.H., who lost his 20-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose and is trying to end the stigma of addiction; and Gina and Heidi Nortonsmith, whose 2004 lawsuit paved the way for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, and who were present in 2022 as the president signed the Respect for Marriage Act.

There’s one invitee, though, who could upstage even Bono: Ruth Cohen, a 92-year old survivor of Auschwitz who know lives in Rockville, Md., and volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.