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Jill Biden's SOTU guests include Ukraine ambassador, Facebook whistleblower

The guests' connections to the Ukraine crisis, big tech companies, health care and education give an early look at Biden's State of the Union topics.

WASHINGTON — First Lady Jill Biden's State of the Union guests were announced Tuesday, giving an early glimpse at President Joe Biden's plans for the address. 

The White House said the Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, will sit with the first lady and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff in the viewing box. Eight Americans will join them, including Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. 

Who is sitting with Jill Biden at the State of the Union? 

Guests of the first family have long been a tradition at SOTU addresses, and generally have connections to the president's goals and achievements. The White House said these guests were chosen "because they represent policies or themes to be addressed by the President in his speech." 

RELATED: What to watch in Biden's 1st State of the Union address

Tech connections:

Frances Haugen

Haugen is a former Facebook executive who secretly copied a trove of internal documents before leaving the company. She subsequently had her lawyers file complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleging that Facebook hides what it knows about the negative effects of its platform. 

In October 2021, Haugen told Congress that Facebook -- now Meta -- knows that its platform spreads misinformation and content that harms children but refuses to make changes that could hurt its profits.

RELATED: Facebook announces it's purging 1 billion faceprints from its system

Patrick "Pat" Gelsinger

Gelsinger is the CEO of Intel and a member of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. The White House also pointed to a $20 billion plan for an Intel facility near Columbus, Ohio, to be built by union labor and create "7,000 construction jobs and another 3,000 jobs running the high-tech facility." 

RELATED: 'A great day in Ohio history': Intel announces $20 billion plan to build 2 new factories

Health connections: 

Joshua Davis

The White House said Davis, a 13-year-old diabetes advocate, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as an infant. At four years old, he advocated for the Virginia General Assembly to pass a bill on school safety for kids with the condition. Davis and his mother introduced the president at an event on prescription drug costs in February. 

RELATED: Biden to launch overhaul of nursing home standards and safety

Refynd Duro

The White House said Duro is an Ohio progressive care unit nurse who has been treating COVID-19 patients throughout the pandemic. For 19 years, she has been a bedside nurse who advocates for bedside nurses and patient safety. 

RELATED: Nearly half of Biden's 500 million free COVID tests still unclaimed

Danielle Robinson

The White House said Robinson is the widow of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq. He was serving on active duty in the Ohio National Guard when he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder and stage 4 lung cancer. Robinson, a doctor of physical therapy, advocates for service members and veterans who were exposed to "environmental hazards and burn pits while serving," the White House said.  

Education connections: 

Melissa Isaac

According to the White House, Isaac is "Gizhwaasod (Protector of the Young) at the Michigan Department of Education’s Indigenous Education Initiative and Founder of Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Project AWARE Program." She formerly worked as the Director of Education for the tribe and was an elementary school teacher at Saginaw Chippewa Academy. The White House said she used a federal grant to expand mental health services for kids at the academy and two public school districts. She had met with the First Lady and U.S. surgeon general in 2021 for a listening session on youth mental health. 

Kezia Rodriguez

Rodriguez is a full-time student at Bergen Community College and mom of twin daughters. The White House connected her to the American Rescue Plan, saying she enrolled her kids in a free childcare program at Bergen made possible through the plan. Rodriguez, a first-generation American, introduced the First Lady at Bergen in January. 


Joseph "JoJo" Burgess

Burgess is a longtime member of the United Steelworkers in Washington, Pennsylvania. The son of two former steelworkers spent seven years in the U.S. military, including an Operation Desert Storm tour. He's also a member of the NAACP's Washington branch. Burgess introduced the president at a recent Pittsburgh event on infrastructure, manufacturing and "making more in America."

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