Politics

Who Massachusetts Is Bringing to the State of the Union

A transgender soldier, a TPS recipient, a net neutrality advocate, and others are headed to Washington thanks to Joe Kennedy, Seth Moulton, and Ed Markey.


Photo via AP

Invitations to guests for the State of the Union are politically charged choices, made to serve a few major purposes: To communicate something about your priorities, to highlight remarkable people in the communities you serve, and to troll the sitting president as hard as you possibly can. Given the sheer volume of enemies made by our Commander-in-Chief in his first year, there were all kinds of aggrieved parties local pols could pick to participate in the event, thus forcing the president to confront people who will suffer under his policies, or at least share a room with them, while he lays out his agenda in the yearly address.

Trump has, of course, done something similar with his own list of honored guests, which include people with family killed by the gang MS-13, an ICE agent, and a manufacturer that says it will benefit from the tax bill Trump signed in December.

Here are the locals invited by our delegation. It’s not hard to discern why they’re on the list:

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III‘s guest is Staff Sergeant Patricia King, a transgender soldier from Cape Cod who was the first trans woman to have reassignment surgery paid for by the military. Massachusetts politicians, including Kennedy, overwhelmingly condemned Trump’s announcement last year that he would seek to bar transgender men and women from the military. Several courts have blocked the move, teeing up a possible fight in the Supreme Court. “I have served for almost 19 years,” King told the Globe. “And all of a sudden, it is all hanging in the balance.” King won’t actually be joined by Kennedy, who is preparing to give the Democrats’ response to the State of the Union from a technical vocational school in Fall River.

Rep. Seth Moulton will bring Edenilson Granados, a Salvadoran recipient of Temporary Protected Status who works for Lynn soup manufacturer Kettle Cuisine. Trump’s administration announced this month that it would withdraw TPS protections for those who hail from El Salvador, a decision that will revoke work permits for 200,000 immigrants and put them at risk of being deported. Granados is one of 6,000 Salvadorans TPS holders in Massachusetts. “Edenilson’s pursuit of a better life in the United States is the manifestation of the American Dream,” Moulton said, according to The Salem News. “The United States should be the land of promise, not a place that dashes the hopes of hardworking men and women—no matter where they were born. We in Washington must aim to restore America’s place as a land of safety and opportunity, just as Edenilson envisioned it.”

Rep. Richard Neal will bring Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, to highlight the official’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in Western Massachusetts, and also to skewer what he sees as too little help on the issue from Washington. “President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in October—and the only thing his Administration and Congress have to show for it is a report, no action,” Neal said in a statement. “Congress and the Administration simply are not doing enough to help Americans access necessary treatment for opioid use disorders.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren will bring new Brockton City Councilor Jean Bradley Derenoncourt, who became Massachusetts’ first Haitian man in elected office in 2017 and “embodies American values of hard work, service, & persistence,” Warren wrote on Twitter. “Coming here as a young kid from Haiti, not knowing English, it means a lot. It truly shows the values of Massachusetts and the greatness of our country,” Derenoncourt told the Brockton Enterprise. In response to Trump’s comments about Haiti and African nations (which he reportedly called “shithole countries”), he added, “I think what the president said about Haiti was a disgrace.”

Ed Markey will bring Carbonite CEO and net neutrality advocate Mohamad Ali. Ali, who was born in Guyana and is now a U.S. citizen, has been an outspoken proponent of rules that keep internet providers from speeding up or slowing down access to certain websites or services. The FCC voted in December to roll those protections back. Markey has introduced a bill to restore them. “I celebrate Mohamad’s story and success, and thank him for his commitment to diversity, job creation, and internet freedom,” Markey said in a statement.

Katherine Clark will bring Anny Gonzalez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who “endured persistent sexual harassment” at her job cleaning airplanes, according to Clark’s announcement. Clark says she hopes to shed light on the #MeToo movement as it relates to employees in the service industry. “When the president looks up at our guests, I want him to see the face of a mom who was forced to decide between reporting abuse and making sure her daughter was fed,” said Clark. “Millions of women in the service industry contend with assault, harassment, and abuse from more powerful people because they feel like they have no other choice. The #MeToo movement has to be about creating a safe environment for victims to come forward, establishing accountability, and demanding action from our leaders, including our president.”

Rep. Jim McGovern will bring Tara Huard, a survivor of domestic violence and advocate for victims who McGovern has called “inspiring.” “Domestic violence is an epidemic in our society, and we need to recognize it so we can create change and end the cycle,” Huard, supervisor of outreach at prevention at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts, told Worcester Magazine.

Rep. Niki Tsongas will also bring an advocate for domestic violence victims, Isa Wolduiorguis, executive director of The Center for Hope and Healing in Lowell, which offers free counseling and support services. Tsongas, who is among lawmakers who plan to wear black in support of women standing up to abusers, said in a statement that Wolduiorguis’ work reinforces the fact that sexual harassment and assault isn’t just a problem for media figures and celebrities but “is a scourge that runs rampant through all avenues of society and impacts people in all walks of life.” She added: “I felt it was important to invite a community leader at the center of the fight against sexual violence to be in attendance at the State of the Union to underscore the weight and breadth of the situation and to emphasize the urgent need for action.”

Stephen Lynch is not attending, citing family reasons.