A survivor of last year’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., will attend President Trump’s State of the Union address next week as a guest of Rep. Eric Swalwell, the congressman said Friday.
Cameron Kasky, 18, became an activist following the Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting, which killed 17 people. He co-founded Never Again MSD, a group that advocates for stricter gun laws, and helped organize last year’s March for Our Lives protest.
“In the face of unimaginable tragedy, Cameron Kasky has shown remarkable strength,” Swalwell (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “He stands at the forefront of the fight for action to address gun violence . . . I’m proud to have Cameron join me at the U.S. Capitol, nearly one year after he faced a horror no kid should endure at school, to continue this fight, because there is no right more important than the right to live.”
Kasky’s presence will call attention to Democrats’ pledge to pass stricter gun control legislation, one day before their first meeting on gun violence prevention in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
Swalwell, who is weighing a 2020 presidential bid, has also proposed banning military-style semiautomatic weapons and establishing a mandatory buyback program. He and Kasky hosted a town hall discussion about gun violence in Des Moines, in December.
“Too many families, friendships and communities across our nation have been torn apart by gun violence. It’s time this epidemic be met with real action — not moments of silence and thoughts and prayers,” Swalwell said.
It is not unusual for lawmakers to use their State of the Union guests to make political statements. Trump will speak to a prime-time audience on Tuesday night.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) announced that they will bring D.J. and Wendy Corcoran of Knoxville, Tenn., whose son Pierce was killed in December in a multivehicle car crash. The driver, charged with criminally negligent homicide, has been identified by prosecutors as an undocumented immigrant.
“The tragedy the Corcoran family has endured is one no family should ever have to experience,” Blackburn said in a statement. “The attendance of Pierce’s parents at the State of the Union serves as a reminder that we as a Congress have a duty to keep the American people safe.”
The move echoes Trump’s decision last year to invite two couples whose daughters were killed by members of the MS-13 gang, according to the White House.
A number of Republicans have invited significant figures from their states and communities.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will bring Lisa Minton, executive director of Chrysalis House in Lexington, Ky., describing her as “one of the Kentuckians at the forefront of our ongoing fight against opioid addiction.” The facility describes itself as the state’s oldest and largest licensed substance abuse treatment program for women.
Rep. Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) will bring Republican Gov. Bill Lee (Tenn.), who was sworn in last month.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) will bring Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, the first woman ever to hold the job. Hart was appointed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) has invited Mike Crews, the fire chief of Taylorville, Ill., who helped lead recovery efforts after a tornado struck the town in December.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) will bring Steve Bowman of Chazy, N.Y., an Air Force veteran and director of the Clinton County Veterans Service Agency.
Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) will bring Jeffrey Willis of LaGrange, Ga., the chief executive of a company that manufactures floor and cargo mats for cars.
Democrats will use Tuesday’s speech to draw attention to the plight of refugees, family separations at the border and the Trump Organization’s history of employing undocumented workers.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will bring a mother and daughter who fled Guatemala and were separated for nearly two months last year after crossing into the United States, according to his office. The daughter, Yakelin Garcia Contreras, was 11 at the time.
“This child separation policy came from a dark and evil place within the heart of this administration,” Merkley, who is weighing a presidential bid, said in a statement.
“I’m bringing Albertina and Yakelin as my guests to the State of the Union because we need to bear witness to the suffering that this cruel policy inflicted, and resolve to make sure that nothing like this ever happens in the United States of America again.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said he will bring Regina Moller, executive director of a nonprofit group in Groton, Conn., that provides shelter for child refugees and minors who may have been separated from family members at the border, his office said.
“I’m so glad she is joining me at the State of the Union to shed light on how President Trump’s border policies are traumatizing a generation of children and how the recent government shutdown affected Connecticut,” Murphy said of Moller in a statement.
Guests will also include two women who worked at Trump’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club while undocumented. They were invited by Reps. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).
At least one presidential candidate will use the opportunity to hammer the Trump administration for the recent government shutdown.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who launched her White House bid last month, will bring Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik, an air traffic controller from central California who lost her home in the 2017 Thomas fire and was furloughed during the 35-day shutdown. Pesiri-Dybvik’s husband, also an air traffic controller, worked without pay during that time, Harris’s office said.
“Trisha’s story is just one of many stories I heard during the shutdown of Americans whose lives were upended and who faced those difficult days with strength and resilience,” Harris said in a statement. “Washington needs to hear her story and avoid another harmful shutdown.”
Several lawmakers invited people whose work promotes science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) will bring Bethlehem Gronneberg, founder and CEO of uCodeGirl, a nonprofit group based in Fargo that encourages young women to pursue careers in technology and engineering.
Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), who is co-president of the freshman class, will bring Jean Buller of Commerce Township, Mich., a recently retired science teacher.
“I am excited to prioritize STEM education and ensure that science teachers like Mrs. Buller have the support and resources they need to provide a quality education for their students,” Stevens said in a statement.