Continued US support for Ukraine is likely to be a highlight of Biden’s speech, especially with Markarova joining the first lady as a guest for the second year in a row. Ukraine’s ambassador received a standing ovation at last year’s State of the Union address, just days after Russia launched its war on Ukraine.
Politically motivated violence and extremism are sure to be themes of Biden’s speech with Paul Pelosi on the guest list, after the former House speaker’s husband was violently attacked by a home intruder in the fall of 2022. The White House guest list also includes Monterey Park, Brandon Tsay, a survivor of the California Lunar New Year shooting, who heroically stopped the gunman from carrying out a second attack.
The president is also expected to discuss justice in surveillance, given the attendance of the parents of Tire Nichols, a black man who died in Memphis last month after being beaten by police.
Several people on the guest list have been affected in some way by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, including Saria Gwin-Maye, a blacksmith and union member who will work on a bridge repair in Kentucky that is receiving investment due to the legislation. Another guest, Deanna Branch, is working to build a lead-free community after her son suffered lead poisoning, an initiative for which Biden’s infrastructure law has provided funding.
The other White House guests highlight key issues such as job growth, the Inflation Reduction Act, abortion, mental health, cancer and the fight against anti-Semitism, among others. The first lady also invited U2 lead singer Bono, who is a well-known activist in the fight against HIV and AIDS.