Leesa K. Donner is Editorial Director of Liberty Nation. She previously worked in the broadcast news industry and writes extensively about the media.
It’s been somewhat of an American tradition for first ladies to sit with “friends” of the president during the State of the Union Address. While last night was not an official SOTU address since this is Donald Trump’s first year in office, it was the first time the President addressed a joint session of Congress since his election.
Those sitting next to the First Lady were not personal friends of the first couple, but those whom the president believes will benefit from proposed policies outlined in his address as delineated in another article here on Liberty Nation by Graham J Noble.
Several special guests were invited, including the widow of Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia. But it was a less-heralded guest – Carryn Owens, wife of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens – who became the focus of the loudest, most moving and touching ovation in memory. Owens, who died in the raid on Yemen, was the first service member to perish during the Trump administration. Members on both sides of the aisle rose in unison with thunderous and sustained applause as his widow strained mightily to hold back the emotion pouring out of her.
Also present was Denisha Merriweather, who represented a school choice success story, and flanking the First Lady was Jamiel Shaw, Sr. whose seventeen-year-old son was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant tied to gangs. But the high-profile invitees were Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis – both widows of Law Enforcement officers killed in the line of duty by an illegal immigrant back in 2014.
These guests made an up-close and personal statement regarding illegal immigrant crime in the U.S. and, is reflective of the President’s desire to crackdown on criminals living here who are also illegal aliens.
In addition, there was a young lady who represented the President’s propensity for entrepreneurialism as he goes about changing the current dysfunctional health care system in the United States. College student Megan Crowley was diagnosed with Pompe Disease when she was only fifteen months old. Her predicted lifespan was only a few short years, but there she sat at age twenty after her father developed Novazyme Pharmaceuticals. What began as a little business with only a handful of employees has grown into a company that employs over a hundred people – all in an effort to find a cure for Ms. Crowley’s condition. It was a classic example of the triumphant American spirit.
Each member of Congress is permitted to bring one guest to such speeches made by the President to Joint Sessions of American lawmakers. The President, meanwhile, is permitted up to twenty-four guests along with the Speaker of the House.
According to The Presidency Project the tradition of Presidential visitors sitting alongside the First Lady started with President Reagan when, in 1982, he invited Lenny Skutnik to sit next to his wife Nancy. A government employee, Skutnik represented American heroism when he dove into the frigid waters of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. to save a woman’s life following an Air Florida plane crash