By Kanishka Singh and Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday will feature a guest list that includes a man who disarmed a gunman who killed 11 people, a former Afghan ambassador, and the family of Tyre Nichols, who died after being beaten by Memphis police.
Biden is expected to use the speech, which is delivered during a joint session of Congress, as an unofficial beginning of the 2024 presidential campaign season, laying out his policy priorities.
Following are some of the guests expected to attend:
* Brandon Tsay: Tsay was called a hero by authorities for disarming a gunman who shot dead 11 people during a celebration of the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California. His actions were praised for preventing further bloodshed.
He was invited by U.S. Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat from California.
* The mother of Tyre Nichols, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells. Nichols, a Black motorist, died after being beaten by police following a Jan. 7 traffic stop. Five Memphis police officers have been charged with his murder.
The parents accepted an invitation this week from the Congressional Black Caucus chairman, U.S. Representative Steven Horsford, who is a Democrat and the White House.
* The ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Oksana Markarova, was invited by first lady Jill Biden. The White House called it a “recognition of sustained U.S. support for Ukraine nearly a year after Russia launched its unprovoked attack.”
* The White House has also invited Paul Pelosi, husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He was attacked by an intruder in their California home in October. “The attack reportedly was politically motivated, with the intruder’s alleged intent to harm and kidnap the former Speaker,” the White House said.
* Pelosi invited former Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, who was honored by Biden last month for defending the Capitol during the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
* Celebrities made the White House list with Bono, lead singer of Irish band U2, invited for his work to fight HIV/AIDS and poverty.
* Missouri Democrat Cori Bush said she has invited Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, whose 2014 shooting by a Ferguson police officer helped give birth to the Black Lives Matter movement.
* Lillian Drummond, 101, may be the oldest guest, although she will attend via a Zoom link, said Illinois Democrat Danny Davis, who invited the longtime Chicago community activist and founder of the South Austin Coalition Community Council.
* Former Afghan ambassador to the United States, Roya Rahmani. Afghanistan’s first female ambassador to the United States held the post from December 2018 to July 2021. The United States completed the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan in August 2021 after a 20-year war.
House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul invited Rahmani. McCaul, a Republican, said he hoped her presence “will send a signal to the women of Afghanistan that they have not been forgotten.”
* Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican, announced her State of the Union guest would be Sheriff Jeffrey T. Smith of Fort Plain, New York. In a statement, Stefanik emphasized the issue of crime and criticized Biden’s policies on law enforcement.
* Senator Elizabeth Warren said she has invited Eugenie Ouedraogo, a nursing student and mother of three, to highlight the issue of affordable childcare.
* Two Democratic House freshmen have invited parents of two victims of school shootings as their guests.
Greg Casar, from Texas, and Maxwell Frost, a Democrat from Florida, will host Brett Cross, whose son, Uziyah Garcia, was one of the victims of a shooting last May in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, and Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver, one of 17 victims of the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla., respectively.
* Other guests of the White House include cancer survivor Darlene Gaffney; Amanda Zurawski who was unable to obtain abortion services due to Texas’s abortion ban and Doug Griffin, who lost his 20-year-old daughter to a fentanyl overdose.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Kanishka Singh in Washington; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Bradley Perrett, Robert Birsel)