WASHINGTON – Alan Gross and his wife, Judy, will be guests of first lady Michelle Obama at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
Gross, a subcontractor for the US Agency for International Development, was released from a Cuban jail on December 17 after spending five years imprisoned for crimes against the state stemming from his efforts to hook up the island’s small Jewish community to the Internet.
“That same day – with Alan’s unjust captivity resolved – the president announced to the world that the United States was changing its relationship with the people of Cuba,” the White House said Monday in announcing the 23 guests who will be seated in a special box when Obama addresses Congress on Tuesday night. “In the most significant changes in policy in more than 50 years, the President directed that we would begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” it said.
The first ladies traditionally choose guests to whom their spouses can refer when announcing policy plans for the coming year. Gross’ presence signals Obama’s intention to press forward on changes with Cuba despite opposition in the Republican-controlled Congress.