State of the Union notes

January 28th, 2010 by –GAYS IN THE MILITARY: Activists want stronger effort to end the ban
President Barack Obama urged Congress to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said.

But it fell short for some gay activists. An organization representing service members who had been dismissed called on Obama to push a repeal in the upcoming Pentagon budget.

STAYING AT HOME: HUD secretary gets the call
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovangot the nod to miss attending the speech in person — fulfilling a requirement that someone in the line of succession stay away in case a catastrophe takes out the country’s leadership.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also missed Obama’s State of the Union address, but she was in London attending a conference.

REMEMBERING HAITI: A thank-you for pitching in
The president praised Americans who are helping Haiti recover. Obama said he was inspired by the “fundamental decency” of the American people. “It lives on in the 8-year-old boy in Louisiana, who just sent me his allowance and asked if I would give it to the people of Haiti,” he said.

LET’S MEET: Extending a hand to the GOP
The president said he wanted to hold monthly meetings that included Republican leaders.

Obama looked at them and said, jokingly: “I know you can’t wait.”

A NOD TO THE MISSUS: Child obesity initiative lauded
The president lauded Michelle Obama for her initiative to lower the rate of child obesity in the country. The chamber stood in applause, while the first lady, sitting in the gallery, gently nodded.

“She gets embarrassed,” Obama told members of Congress.

GALLERY GUESTS: The first lady’s VIPs
The gallery guest list of 25 people sitting with Michelle Obama included:

• Tina Dixon, a former stay-at-home mom whom Obama met when he visited a jobs training site in Allentown, Pa., that received funding from the economic stimulus package.

• Dan Karner, the chief of an Arizona company that received $99 million from the stimulus bill, which helped him create at least 50 permanent clean energy jobs and saved others.

• Julia Frost of Jacksonville, N.C., a former trumpeter in the Marine Corps Band studying to become a teacher at Coastal Carolina Community College with the help of the GI Bill.

• Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, the police officers who officials said stopped a gun-wielding Nidal Malik Hasan when he allegedly opened fire at Ft. Hood, Texas.

• Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Rubin, who has served four combat tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, and Wisconsin Army National Guard volunteer Janell Kellett, whose husband recently returned to their home in Sun Prairie, Wis.

• Rebecca Knerr, whose husband is leading a northern Virginia-based task force of rescue workers in Haiti.

No guests were from Michigan.

Next up: The president was planning to keep the State of the Union tradition of hitting the road to continue pressing his case. He is to travel to Florida, Maryland on Friday and New Hampshire on Tuesday.

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