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Michelle Obama picks disaster heroes, gay athlete as speech guests

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama jogs with children at a back-to-school event at Orr Elementary School in Washington September 6, 2013. REUTER
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama jogs with children at a back-to-school event at Orr Elementary School in Washington September 6, 2013. REUTER

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Heroes of the Boston Marathon bombing, a firefighter who led the rescue response to an Oklahoma tornado, and an openly gay basketball player will be among U.S. first lady Michelle Obama's guests at the State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The White House uses Mrs. Obama's seating area in the chamber of the House of Representatives during her husband's annual speech to Congress to highlight people and issues that are important to her and the administration.

A Washington, D.C. teacher and the youngest intern at Intel Corp will also join the first lady, Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in the box on Tuesday, the White House said.

Below are the names and descriptions of the guests the White House has released so far:

1) Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman of Boston

Arredondo, wearing a white cowboy hat, was photographed helping a severely injured Bauman during last year's bombing of the Boston Marathon. The picture became a hopeful symbol of the devastating attack. Bauman lost both of his legs. The two men have become close friends, the White House said.

2) Gary Bird, fire chief in Moore, Oklahoma

Bird led the rescue response to the tornado, which struck Moore, killing 25 people including children. "Fire Chief Gary Bird represents all of those who rallied together to help the community of Moore, Oklahoma - firefighters, police officers, teachers, neighbors - in its greatest time of need," the White House said.

3) Jason Collins - basketball player

Veteran basketball player Jason Collins announced last year that he was gay. A 12-year player in the National Basketball Association, he became the first active athlete from any of the four major U.S. men's professional sports leagues to come out publicly as gay.

4) Joey Hudy, 16, intern at Intel Corp

Hudy met President Obama when he was 14 at a White House science fair in 2012 and impressed him with his "extreme marshmallow cannon." Now 16, he is the youngest intern at U.S. chip manufacturer Intel Corp.

5) Kathy Hollowell-Makle, a teacher in Washington, DC

Hollowell-Makle was the 2013 District of Columbia public school teacher of the year. "By the school year's end, more than 90 percent of her students demonstrate early literacy at proficient or advanced levels and last year, more than 80 percent of her students advanced two or more reading levels," the White House said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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