Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) brought Calvin Franklin, a member of the custodial staff, as his guest for President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening.
“I am proud to take Calvin as my guest to the State of the Union. He works hard behind the scenes at the U.S. Senate and deserves a front row seat to history unfolding,” Kennedy said in a news release. “I’m excited that he will be able to enjoy this moment.”
Franklin said on Wednesday morning that he loved being at the State of the Union, and he got a lot of attention from his friends and colleagues.
“Everybody was like ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were that popular. I didn’t know you had big time pull with the senators,'” Franklin said with a laugh.
Kennedy and Franklin got to know each other about two years ago, shortly after Franklin started his job on the custodial staff cleaning restrooms in the Russell Senate Office Building.
“When I first started working in this building, he was one of the first ones to stop and talk to me,” said Franklin, 23, a D.C. native. “I built a bond with him. He’s one of the coolest senators.”
It was early January when Kennedy asked Franklin if he’d like to attend the president’s speech.
“I said yes right away, I’d definitely go with John Kennedy,” Franklin said. “That’s my buddy.”
Franklin, a 2013 graduate of Calvin Coolidge Senior High School, was hired as a custodian through Goodwill’s AbilityOne Program, an organization that helps find jobs for people with disabilities. Franklin said he has a learning difference that makes it challenging for him to learn subjects such as math and reading.
He likes his job, but said he’d one day like to pursue his dream of being a D.C. firefighter.
“I like working up here at the Senate but I’m looking for a better opportunity,” he said. “My dream job since I was a kid is to be a fireman but I was scared to try for it because of my learning disability. I need to stop being afraid and jump out there in the real world and do it.”
This post has been updated.