Former speechwriters on goals of State of the Union address
Former speechwriters for Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton provide insight.
Millions of Americans are gearing up to watch President Trump's first State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
It's obviously going to be "must-watch TV," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during Monday's briefing.
But the American people won't be the only ones watching.
From members of Congress to distinguished guests handpicked by the president himself, here are some of the people who are expected to be in the audience on Tuesday.
The First Lady
First Lady Melania Trump will have her own viewing box in the gallery of the House chamber.
First Lady Melania Trump will have her own viewing box at the State of the Union.
Guests of the president
Fifteen guests will join Mrs. Trump in the gallery at the president's request. It’s a tradition that was started by former President Ronald Reagan in 1982.
“Some of these individual stories are heroic. Some are patriotic. Others are tragic,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a press briefing on Monday. “But all of them represent the unbreakable American spirit and will inspire our nation to continue growing stronger, prouder and more prosperous.”
A Marine Corps. veteran, a cop, a welder and the parents of MS-13 victims are among those who were handpicked by the president to attend Tuesday's speech.
Evelyn Rodriguez, whose 16-year-old daughter Kayla Cuevas was found beaten and stabbed by members of the MS-13, will attend the State of the Union.
The president’s Cabinet
Members of Trump's Cabinet, and the heads of 15 executive departments, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are also invited to attend.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will have reserved seats at the front of the room.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is expected to attend Trump's SOTU.
Supreme Court justices
The nine Supreme Court justices, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch were all invited to attend Trump’s State of the Union address.
However, it's not unusual for justices to skip the event. Justices Alito, Thomas and Ginsburg did not attend Trump's presidential address last year.
Ginsburg won't be attending the address this year either. Instead, the 84-year-old justice will be at Roger Williams University's law school in Rhode Island for a chat that was announced in August, the Providence Journal reported.
Members of Congress
Members of the House and Senate will also be in attendance, along with one guest of their choosing.
There’s no assigned seating for members, with the exception of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, who will sit directly behind Trump on the dais.
Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence will sit directly behind President Trump on the dais.
"In accord with long-standing custom and to ensure the continuity of government, one Cabinet secretary does not attend the speech," the Congressional Research Service says. "After September 11, 2001, congressional leadership began designating two Members from each house of Congress, representing both parties, to remain absent from the Capitol during the President’s speech."
However, there may be a few more empty chairs this year, as several Democrats have already announced plans to boycott the event.
Their colleagues, on the other hand, have promised to fill seats with dozens of so-called "Dreamers," the nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
But the audience will be filled with more than Dreamers. Local government officials, sexual assault survivors, small business owners, police officers and other groups have also received invites.
Joint Chiefs of Staff
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior uniformed leaders — from the Marine Corps, Navy, Army and Air Force — in the U.S. Department of Defense who help advise the president and his staff on military matters, will also attend the address.
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