WASHINGTON — A U.S. contractor who returned home last month after spending five years imprisoned in Cuba will have a prime viewing spot for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address: a seat near first lady Michelle Obama.
Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, are among 22 guests the White House invited to Tuesday night’s speech.
Gross is a former federal subcontractor who was arrested in Cuba in 2009. His wife and others said he was there to set up Internet access for the small Jewish community on the communist island. He was released last month as part of a historic announcement by Obama that the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after five decades.
It’s become tradition for presidents to invite people whose stories of tragedy or triumph highlight an issue or public policy. President Ronald Reagan was the first to do so in 1982 and acknowledge the guests, who sit with the first lady, during the speech. Every president since has continued the tradition.
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