WASHINGTON — Two of the men forever linked by last year’s Boston Marathon bombings will be guests of Michelle Obama for the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the attack, and Carlos Arredondo, who helped wheel him to safety, will attend the speech.
The scene of the two in the immediate aftermath of the bombings became one of the iconic images, capturing both the chaos and courage of the day.
From his hospital bed, Bauman, 27, played a crucial role in helping investigators identify the Tsarnaev brothers as bombing suspects. Arredondo, 53, who made a tourniquet from a sweater sleeve that saved Bauman’s life, is now what some of his friends call Boston’s “comforter in chief.”
Their presence in the House chamber may be one indication that Obama will bring up the Boston bombings during his address. Those who are invited typically reinforce a point that the president makes during the speech.
Another guest will be Jason Collins, 35, of Los Angeles, who in April became the first active male athlete on a major American sports team to come out as openly gay.
Collins played 12 years in the NBA, including one with the Boston Celtics. He went to the playoffs nine times and made the finals twice. The president said Collins’s announcement marked a point of progress for the gay community.
In his address, Obama will frame an economic argument that Democrats hope will help carry them to victory in November.
Although not explicitly political, the State of the Union speech gives Obama an opportunity to issue a rallying cry for economic fairness and expanded opportunity — issues Democrats believe will resonate in races across the country.
“It will be interpreted as the Democratic agenda,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster. “He can frame up the 2014 choice.”
That choice, as Obama portrays it, is between an America where all segments of the population have opportunities to improve their lot, and one where prosperity is disproportionately enjoyed by a select few.
In advance of the speech, Obama has persistently sought to focus the nation’s attention on trends of inequality and lower social mobility that he’s pledging to address in his final years in office.
To be sure, not all Democrats will echo Obama’s themes in their campaigns. Many may focus on regional issues or their personal characteristics.
But with the economy still a top issue for most voters, Democrats see issues of economic fairness and expanding access to the middle class as their best chance to reach a broad swath of the population that feels left behind in the economy.
“Middle-class security is the defining issue of our time,” said Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, who chairs the House Democrats’ campaign arm. “Our candidates are going to talk about what priority makes more sense for the middle class: Increasing the minimum wage or decreasing taxes for the wealthiest? Those contrasts are imperative and revealing.”
When Obama invited Senate Democrats to a meeting at the White House this month, much of the session focused on how Democrats wanted Obama to focus on the notion of expanding economic opportunity in his State of the Union, said a White House official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss a private meeting and requested anonymity.