WASHINGTON — When she got a call Friday inviting her to come to the White House and meet with first lady Michelle Obama, Gilbert resident Amanda Shelley “thought I was being pranked by my friends.”
But the call was for real and Shelley was one of five Arizona residents scheduled to sit with the first lady in the Capitol Tuesday evening to watch President Obama deliver his State of the Union address.
The five Arizonans made up a disproportionate share of the 24 Americans invited to join the first lady because they “exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union,” according to the White House announcement of the guest list.
The Arizona residents included a wounded soldier and his dad from Phoenix, an inventive high school student from Anthem, a Phoenix resident who went on a hunger strike to push for immigration reform and Shelley, a physician’s assistant who was able to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Besides Shelley, they were:
- Cristian Avila of Phoenix, an immigration advocate and voter engagement coordinator who was on a hunger strike on the National Mall with a group of immigration reform advocates when they were visited by the Obamas in November.
- Joey Hudy of Anthem, a high school inventor and self-described “maker.”
- Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was severely wounded in Afghanistan, and his father and caretaker, Craig Remsburg, a businessman, both of Phoenix.
- Amanda Shelley, Gilbert, physician assistant and Obamacare enrollee.
They were joined by a group that included business executives, elected officials, teachers, firefighters, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, and one of the first openly gay players in the NBA.
While it’s traditional for first ladies to invite such issue-related guests, it is not typical to see “five different families or five different individuals from one state being invited,” said Dave Wakeman, principal of the Wakeman Consulting Group.