Higher Ed and Guests at State of the Union

January 20, 2015

President Obama, like many presidents over the last 25 or so years, invites selected guests -- whose stories reflect administration priorities --  to sit with the First Lady during the State of the Union address. This year there are several higher education connections. Chelsey Davis (at right) is a student at Pellissippi State Community College at a time when President Obama is pushing a plan to make two years of community college free. Bill Elder is a medical student and a Stanford University graduate who was never expected to reach adulthood because of his cystic fibrosis. His story, the White House says, reflects the value of medical research and education. Also reflecting an emphasis on education is Anthony Mendez, the first in his family to graduate from high school and now a freshman at the University of Hartford. And Ana Zamora is a "DREAM" student, among those brought to the country at a young age but lacking permanent legal status, although they have gained some new rights under the Obama administration.

Members of Congress also get guest seats. New York Magazine reported that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, is bringing Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who protested campus policies on sexual assault by dragging a mattress with her for an entire semester. Sulkowicz says that the mattress symbolizes the weight she carries because of the university's failure to punish the student she says raped her. (He denies that.)




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