For Tuesday's State of the Union address -- President Obama's last -- a vacant seat will be among invited guests in the First Lady's viewing box to represent victims of gun violence.
In an announcement via WhiteHouse.gov, Michelle Obama's entire guest list was released with an explanation for the empty chair:
Last week, the President took a series of commonsense steps to help reduce gun violence in America and make our communities safer.
We leave one seat empty in the First Lady’s State of the Union Guest Box for the victims of gun violence who no longer have a voice – because they need the rest of us to speak for them. To tell their stories. To honor their memory. To support the Americans whose lives have been forever changed by the terrible ripple effect of gun violence – survivors who’ve had to learn to live with a disability, or without the love of their life. To remind every single one of our representatives that it’s their responsibility to do something about this.
(Armed Secret Service agents will also surround the First Lady in the box, but don't let that fact get in the way of the more important narrative.)
The other chairs will be full with guests, including a criminal justice reformer, a community college student, a 12-year-old "Let's Move!" activist, the plaintiff (Jim Obergefell) in the historic same-sex marriage ruling, the partner of one of the San Bernardino terror victims, an Obama DREAMer, and a Syrian refugee. It's a collection of folks The Washington Post says, "[T]ells the story of [Obama's] presidency."
A video was made available of White House staffers making personal phone calls to some of the invitees:
Obama has promised an "nontraditional" SOTU address with a focus on the "big picture" -- that is, how America should move forward after he is gone.