State of the Union '13: Guests of the First Lady

Michelle Obama's African-American guests at the State of the Union represent some of the past year's greatest triumphs and tragedies.

Posted: 02/12/2013 10:48 AM EST
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr.

(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The first lady invites several distinguished guests from different walks of life and fields of industry to attend the State of the Union address. This year, her African-American choices reflect the challenges and the triumphs both the nation and the Black community have experienced over the past year.

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr. — Parents of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton

Cleopatra and Nathaniel’s daughter Hadiya Pendleton was murdered on Jan. 29, 2013, when she was shot on Chicago’s South Side. Just before her death, Hadiya participated in President Obama’s public inaugural celebration. She was an honor student and band majorette at King College Prep High School. 

(Photo: White House)

Desiline Victor — 102-year-old U.S. voter

Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old determined voter, shed light on the country’s broken election infrastructure when she waited in line for three hours at her polling place during the 2012 presidential election before wearily leaving and returning a second time to cast her ballot.

Victor was born in Haiti in 1910 and arrived in the United States in 1989. She is a naturalized U.S. citizen, a retired farmworker and a fixture in Miami’s Haitian community. She enjoys attending church services and cooking her own meals.

Haile Thomas

(Photo: dominic arizona bonuccelli/Alliance For a Healthier Generation)

Haile Thomas — 12-year-old health advocate

Haile Thomas is a 12-year-old health advocate who is championing the importance of the youth voice in the discussions on the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. Thomas holds a position on the Youth Advisory Board of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and she is also the Youth Spokesperson and Jr. Chef Consultant for Hyatt Hotels. The Tucson tween is co-founder/director of the HAPPY Organization, an Arizona nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and wellness of youth through education, outreach and advocacy. The organization educates young people on proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices and hosts an annual conference focused on health and fitness on Global Youth Service Day.

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