Skip To Content
Breaking News

Alan Gross Will Be Michelle Obama’s Guest of Honor at State of the Union

(Reuters) — Alan Gross, the Jewish aid worker whose release from a Cuban prison helped pave the way toward restoring diplomatic ties with the communist nation, will be among First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests for Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Gross and his wife Judy were reunited late last year, after Pope Francis helped play a major role in securing his freedom as part of a prisoner exchange.

Obama later credited the historic exchange as the catalyst that led the U.S. to chance its stance toward Cuba, breaking a more than 50-year impasse between the two nations.

The White House on Monday announced that Gross and his wife will be among the more than 20 other guests to sit with the First Lady, Jill Biden and presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett when the president gives his annual address at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday evening.

In addition to Gross, other guests on the First Lady’s list include astronaut Scott Kelly, who will soon embark on a year-long mission to live and work at the International Space Station, and CVS Health Corp Chief Executive Larry Merlo, who made headlines in 2014 when his company became the first major pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco in its stores.

The majority of the guest list, however, consists of many average Americans who may be struggling with employment, affordable education, illnesses or housing – areas that President Barack Obama will likely discuss in his speech as he lays out his policy objectives for 2015.

Some of the guests, such as Chelsey Davis of Tennessee, are current or former students at community colleges around the country. Davis is slated to graduate in May from Pellissippi State Community College. She met with the president earlier this month when he announced his plans for a program to make community college free for some students.

President Obama and his wife are also both inviting Americans who previously wrote to the White House about things going on in their lives. [ID: nL1N0UV2IU]

One such letter writer who will sit with the First Lady is 13-year-old Malik Bryant of Chicago’s South Side, who wrote a letter to Santa Claus saying he just wanted to be “safe.”

Another writer, Ana Zamora, is a student who qualified for relief under Obama’s immigration policy designed to help illegal immigrant children obtain a work permit and avoid deportation.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.