First Lady Michelle Obama embraces Roxanna Green, the mother of the 9-year-old… (Jim Young / Reuters )
President Obama has invited a small-business owner from Ohio and a Virginia high school student. House Speaker John Boehner has assembled a group of "private-sector job creators."
Amid the pageantry of tonight's joint-session congressional address, even the guest list is used to send a political message, even if viewers at home never see who is sitting in the House gallery.
One jab at the president is the invitation afforded to the CEO of Gibson Guitars, who has raised concerns about the federal raid of millions of dollars' worth of exotic woods the company planned to use in production. Republicans say it's an example of "the regulatory onslaught" coming from the Obama administration.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of regulations that are going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars," Boehner said Thursday. "I think bringing those employers here does put a real face on how these regulations impact these businesses specifically."
Aides to Boehner said all of the speaker's invited guests have "run into unnecessary Washington-made barriers as they’ve tried to create jobs," barriers that they said Republicans would remove.
The guests who will be seated with First Lady Michelle Obama all point to elements of the president's plan, a set of proposals he's calling the "American Jobs Act." Some of them also just happen to hail from swing states in which the White House wouldn't mind garnering some favorable coverage.
They include an Iowa business executive who took part in Obama's recent Rural Economic Forum, a small-business owner from Charlotte, N.C., a Navy veteran from Minnesota looking to reenter the private-sector workforce, and a Cleveland schoolteacher who could be laid off because of local budget cuts.
The White House guest list also features members of the president's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, including GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt, and elected officials such as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, now head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Ronald Reagan is the first president who acknowledged invited guests during a speech to Congress, according to the American Presidency Project at UC Santa Barbara. In 1982, he praised Lenny Skutnik, a federal employee who dove into the Potomac River to save a woman after a plane crash.