Ever since Ronald Reagan, presidents speaking to joint sessions of Congress have used the presence of guests sitting with the first lady to personalize the impact of the policy proposals being made.
Joe Biden is no exception. In his speech, Wednesday, given near the end of his administration’s first 100 days in place of a State of the Union address, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will act as hostess to a handful of people who, the White House said “personify some of the issues or policies that will be addressed” in the president’s remarks.
Due to safety concerns regarding COVID-19, this year’s guests will attend the speech virtually while watching remotely, the administration said, following a virtual reception held that afternoon by Dr. Biden and live-streamed on the White House website.
Those attending include, as described by the White House in a news release:
–Javier Quiroz Castro, “Dreamer, DACA Recipient & Nurse”
According to a biographical sketch provided by the White House, Quiroz’s parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was three years old. He grew up in Nashville, attending Lipscomb University from which he graduated in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Science of Nursing degree. Quiroz received the Spirit of Nursing Award, given yearly to a single nursing student who best delivered quality care. In 2012, using the protection of the Barack Obama-initiated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he became a registered nurse and has been on the frontlines in the fight against COVID.
–Maria-Isabel Ballivian, “Executive Director, Annandale Christian Community For Action Child Development Center
Ballivian’s biographical summary describes her as “an innovative educator, senior administrator, trainer, and advocate” who has been working to improve young children’s quality of care and education. The program she runs is an NAEYC-accredited program serving more than 200 at-risk children in Fairfax County, Virginia.
–Tatiana Washington, “Gun Violence Prevention Advocate and Organizer”
According to the White House, Washington became involved with gun violence prevention work after her aunt was killed in a murder-suicide in March 2017. She is a Policy Associate at March for Our Lives and Executive Director of 50 Miles More, a youth-led organization focused on gun violence prevention. She is also involved in the Wisconsin Black Lives Matter Movement.
–Stella Keating (she/her), “First Transgender Teen to Testify Before U.S. Senate”
Keating’s biographical outline explains she’s been politically active since age nine when she testified before her school board advocating for more innovative programs in her elementary school. At age 16, the Tacoma, Washington high school sophomore became the first transgender teenager to testify before the U.S. Senate during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the Equality Act in March 2021.
–Theron Rutyna, “IT Director for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa”
The White House described Rutyna as a leader in the effort to get broadband to tribal lands in Wisconsin. A member of Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ Broadband Task Force, he has been working with the state’s tribal communities to secure funding to bring broadband access to the mostly rural communities they occupy.
The issues the president has chosen to highlight with these guests, especially, the conversion of illegal immigrants to legal ones, transgenderism, and stricter gun control measures are hardly the moderate, bread and butter kinds of issues one might expect a self-proclaimed moderate to address his first time out of the gate. Rather than unite the country, as he tried to do in his inaugural, Biden is attempting, it seems to make a moral crusade out of some of the most divisive issues the country faces. Instead of bringing the country together, he’s splitting it further apart – which may explain why his approval rating at this point is the lowest for any elected president at the same time in their administration except for his immediate predecessors.