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Here are some of the guests who represent the themes of tonight's State of the Union

President Joe Biden hugs Steven Hadfield, who introduced him, during an event on prescription drug costs, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, in Washington.
Evan Vucci
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AP
President Joe Biden hugs Steven Hadfield, who introduced him, during an event on prescription drug costs, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, in Washington.

Updated March 7, 2024 at 3:45 PM ET

A gospel singer and civil rights activist known as "the Voice of Selma," the prime minister of Sweden and a middle school teacher whose student loan debt was forgiven — these are some of the people who will be special guests at tonight's State of the Union address.

It's part of the annual tradition for the White House to invite guests who bring to life the themes of the presidential speech.

Political opponents of the president also bring guests to help criticize the administration's policies.

NPR will be hosting live in-studio video stream coverage of the State of the Union on NPR.org on March 7 starting at 9pm ET.
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Here are some of the people who will sit alongside first lady Jill Biden for the speech tonight:

  • Bettie Mae Fikes, a singer and civil rights leader who marched on Bloody Sunday, in Selma, Ala., nearly six decades ago.
  • Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, whose country has just officially joined NATO.
  • Keenan Jones, a middle school teacher in Plymouth, Minn., whose student loan debt was forgiven.
  • Jazmin Cazares, who became an advocate for tougher gun laws after her sister Jackie was killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
Jazmin Cazares, whose sister was was one of 19 children killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, speaks at a hearing in Austin on June 23, 2022.
Eric Gay / AP
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AP
Jazmin Cazares, whose sister was was one of 19 children killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, speaks at a hearing in Austin on June 23, 2022.

  • Latorya Beasley of Birmingham, whose in vitro fertilization treatments were canceled because of a controversial recent court decision in Alabama. (The speech comes a day after Alabama's governor signed an IVF bill into law, giving immunity to patients and providers.)
  • Kate Cox, who was denied an emergency abortionby the Texas Supreme Court.
  • Commander Shelby Nikitin, a naval officer from Massachusetts awarded the Bronze Star for her work onboard the USS Thomas Hudner helping protect vessels from Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.
  • Steven Hadfield of Matthews, N.C., whose prescription costs for blood cancer and diabetes were dramatically lowered by the Inflation Reduction Act.
President Biden speaks to striking United Auto Workers members and their president, Shawn Fain, after walking the picket line on Sept. 26, 2023.
Evan Vucci / AP
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AP
President Biden speaks to striking United Auto Workers members and their president, Shawn Fain, after walking the picket line on Sept. 26, 2023.

  • Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers,with whom President Biden marched on the picket line earlier this year. The UAW has endorsed Biden's reelection bid.
  • Kameryn Pupunu, a police officer from Lahaina, Hawaii, who helped save people in the deadly wildfire in August, a tragedy that killed four of his immediate family members.
  • Rashawn Spivey of Milwaukee, who owns a plumbing business replacing lead pipes, projects funded by Biden's infrastructure law.


Members of Congress have also adopted the tradition, inviting their own guests to the gallery to highlight their legislative priorities. Here are a few:

  • Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine — who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — announced that Elizabeth Carr will join him as a guest. Carr was the first person in the United States born via in vitro fertilization in 1981.
  • Guests of House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., include Darin Hoover and Alicia Lopez, who each lost a child in a deadly attack during American forces' chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. Another guest is Kristina Gill, whose husband was a former Trump administration official who was killed after a carjacking in Washington, D.C.
  • Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York will bring Brandon Budlong, a Border Patrol agent, as the GOP continues to criticize Biden over his handling of immigration.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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NPR Staff