Alan Gross, who was recently freed after serving five years of a 15 year sentence in a Cuban prison, and his wife Judy, were invited to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s viewing box as President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union Tuesday night.
The Washington D.C. residents were invited because they “exemplify the themes and ideals that the President lays out in his address,” according to a July 19 White House blog.
Also invited to sit beside Mrs. Obama were astronaut Scott Kelly, who is about to embark on a year-long mission to the International Space Station; Army Staff Sergeant Jason Gibson, who lost both his legs serving in Afghanistan; CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo, whose major retail pharmacy was the first major retail pharmacy to eliminate tobacco sales in all its stores; and Maryland Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh.
Obama spoke to the nation as his popularity has been rising. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Obama’s popularity just hit 50 percent for the first time since the spring of 2013.