We caught up with some of the outstanding Americans who were invited to watch the State of the Union Address from the First Lady's box. Each of the nearly two-dozen guests has an incredible story. On the day of the President’s Address to the Nation, we asked a few of the invitees, including a wounded warrior, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) advocate, two ice cream shop owners and a student innovator, what their message for Americans would be. Hear what they had to say:
Staff Sergeant Brian Mast (Washington, DC)
Staff Sergeant Brian Mast is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and joined the United States Army Reserves after graduating from high school in 1999. Four years ago he joined the Special Forces and was trained in bomb disposal. Staff Sergeant Mast deployed to Afghanistan in July 2010. He was seriously injured by a roadside bomb on September 19, 2010. He lost both legs just below the knee and an index finger. Staff Sergeant Mast suffered a broken arm, shrapnel wounds, and a damaged ear drum in the blast and is currently recovering at Walter Reed. Staff Sergeant Mast, his wife, Brianna, and their son, Magnum, met the Vice President and Dr. Biden at a Thanksgiving dinner for military families that the Bidens hosted at the Vice President’s Residence in November 2010.
Ursula M. Burns (Norwalk, CT)
Ursula M. Burns is the chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation. She joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineer summer intern and later assumed roles in product development and planning. From 1992 through 2000, Ms. Burns led several business teams including the office color and fax business and office network printing business. In 2000, she was named senior vice president, Corporate Strategic Services, heading up manufacturing and supply chain operations. She then took on the broader role of leading Xerox's global research as well as product development, marketing and delivery. In April 2007, Ms. Burns was named president of Xerox, expanding her leadership to also include the company's IT organization, corporate strategy, human resources, corporate marketing and global accounts. At that time, she was also elected a member of the company's Board of Directors. Ms. Burns was named chief executive officer in July 2009. Ms. Burns earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University. Ms. Burns was named by the President to help lead the White House national campaign on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in November 2009, and is on the board of Change the Equation, a coalition of over 100 CEOs focused on STEM education that the President announced in September 2010. She was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council in March 2010.
Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis (Santa Cruz, CA)
Business partners Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis had a dream of opening an organic, homemade ice cream shop in Santa Cruz, California, but had trouble finding a lender that would help finance their dream. With the help of a Recovery Act SBA loan of $250,000, Kendra and Zack were able open the doors to The Penny Ice Creamery in August 2010. The SBA Recovery Act funding allowed them to not only open the shop, but also to employ eleven people, purchase American-made equipment, and to hire nearly twenty local businesses to design and renovate the space. Kendra and Zack were so thankful for the financing help, that they posted a video on YouTube thanking the Administration and Members of Congress for their Recovery Act SBA loan. As a result of the video, the Vice President called them in November 2010 to thank them for the video and wish them good luck.
Diego Vasquez (Phoenix, AZ)
Diego Vasquez, currently a freshman at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, was a member of the 12 person team from Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen, Arizona that won a grant through the Lemelson-MIT Program’s InvenTeams initiative for their design of a fully adjustable motorized chair for persons who could primarily use it for physical therapy. The team decided to design the chair after seeing a friend with a disability and fellow student have some difficulty at school. The students and their families held a tamale “bake sale” so that the entire team could travel to MIT to attend EurekaFest, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s annual celebration of invention. For many members of the team, flying to Eurekafest was their first time on a plane. Diego hopes to become an aerospace engineer. Diego met the President at the October 2010 White House Science Fair where he represented his team and demonstrated their chair.