Bono, Ruth Cohen, And Other Guests to Appear at Biden’s State of the Union Address

Bono's activism for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDs and those living in extreme poverty are what landed him on Dr. Jill Biden's invite list.
By Madison E. Goldberg
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, President Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union Address. The Address is delivered to a joint session of Congress and is televised annually. The speech usually summarizes the current state of the economy and any legislation that is being worked on. The president, first lady, vice president, and second gentleman can all invite guests.

This year’s State of the Union is set to include a diverse set of guests, including Bono of U2. Here’s a breakdown of who to expect at tonight’s State of the Union Address, and who invited them.

Bono

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 4: Bono, lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, departs during the Kennedy Center Honorees Reception in the East Room of the White House on Sunday, December 4, 2022 in Washington, DC. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 45th Honorees for lifetime artistic achievements include actor and filmmaker George Clooney; singer-songwriter Amy Grant; singer Gladys Knight; composer Tania León; and Irish rock band U2, comprised of band members Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. (Photo by Al Drago for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

 

The lead singer of acclaimed rock band U2 will make an appearance at tonight’s Address, and he was invited by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. She cited his work as an activist–he notably helped build bipartisan support in the fight to find a cure for HIV/AIDS, and works to end extreme global poverty.

Bono was a founding member of the charity organization ONE, which now has over nine million members dedicated to ending poverty. For his work as an activist, Bono has received the Legion D’Honneur from the French Government in 2003, TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2005 (along with Bill and Melinda Gates), and an honorary British knighthood in 2007. He recently visited the White House in December 2022 alongside the other members of U2, when they received Kennedy Center Honors.

It is likely that his invite came amid the ongoing Republican push to leave access to gender-affirming healthcare up to the states. TikTok creator and activist Dylan Mulvaney recently appeared at the White House to discuss the issue in an interview with President Biden.

RowVaughn and Rodney Wells

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 27: Flanked by Rodney Wells (C) and RowVaughn Wells, the stepfather and mother of Tyre Nichols, civil rights attorney Ben Crump speaks during a press conference on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee. Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died three days after being severely beaten by five Memphis Police Department officers during a traffic stop on January 7, 2023. Memphis and cities across the country are bracing for potential unrest when the city releases video footage from the beating to the public later this evening. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

 

The Wells’ are the mother and stepfather of Tyre Nichols, who was killed in an incident of police brutality in Memphis, Tennessee in January. Nichols was a young amateur photographer and skateboarder from California who recently relocated to Memphis, where he was living with the Wells at the time of his death. He worked at FedEx alongside his stepfather Rodney. He is survived by three siblings, and a four year old son. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at Nichols’ funeral last week in Memphis, and the family’s presence at tonight’s address likely signals that Biden will be addressing the ongoing crisis of police brutality in America. The couple were invited by the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Ruth Cohen

BERLIN, GERMANY – JANUARY 31: U.S. First Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, pauses among stellae at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also called the Holocaust Memorial, on January 31, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. Emhoff has been in Berlin in part to attend a meeting, which took place yesterday, with representatives from the U.S., the E.U., E.U. nations and Israel to discuss and formulate national strategies to counter anti-semitism, which has been on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

 

92-year-old Ruth Cohen of Rockville, Maryland is a Holocaust survivor. Cohen currently volunteers at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She was invited by Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who is the first Jewish person in the White House. Amid rising levels of antisemitism, coming from both celebrities like Kanye West and several GOP members of  Congress, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Emhoff has led the charge in Holocaust education. Emhoff recently visited Auschwitz, a former concentration camp, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Cohen’s presence signifies that Biden will likely address the ongoing antisemitism issues rising in the U.S., and globally.

Other Guests

Some other guests to be present include Maurice and Kandice Barron of New York. They are the parents of a three year old son who survived a rare cancer thanks to Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative. President Biden’s son, Beau, died of cancer at 46 years old.

Deanna Branch of Milwaukee will also be present. Her son was a victim of lead poisoning from unsafe drinking water. The Biden administration is aiming to eradicate lead water pipes in the next decade. Kristin Christensen and Avarie Kollmar will tell the story of their husband and father, an injured Navy veteran. Mitzi Colin Lopez of West Chester, Pennsylvania is an advocate for DACA, an immigration policy that repeatedly came under fire during the Trump administration.

Others will include Indigenous activists, parents of children lost to the opioid epidemic, doctors struggling to provide medical care to people in states with abortion bans, and Oksana Markarova, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. This combination of guests signifies that Biden will likely address fighting for a cure for cancer, legislation to control the opioid epidemic, immigration legislation, the War in Ukraine, police brutality, and the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

The State of the Union Address will be live streamed on CNN at 9 p.m. EST.