Maryland Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh

Maryland Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh will be among First Lady Michelle Obama’s special guests at the president’s sixth State of the Union address on Capitol Hill tonight.

“I’m very excited,” the Baltimore Democrat told the AFRO about the invitation. The practice of honoring special guests at the President’s annual address was instituted by Ronald Reagan in 1982, according to the Washington Post. Those guests are usually chosen to exemplify or put a human face on a particular issue or policy highlighted in the President’s speech.

DREAMers, college students, business owners, military and law enforcement personnel, a young Black boy from Chicago who wrote to the president expressing his fears of violence, an astronaut and Alan Gross, the American who was recently freed from captivity in Cuba, are among the 22 guests who will share the first lady’s box. Sen. Pugh, both a business owner and a lawmaker known for addressing “bread-and-butter” issues, illustrates at least a couple of the areas the White House has tried to focus on.

In its description, the White House hailed Pugh as a prolific legislator with “a reputation as a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for improving the lives of Maryland families.” It specifically highlighted Pugh’s recently introduced legislation, the “Healthy Working Families Act,” which seeks to provide Maryland workers with earned paid sick leave.

“The president wants to introduce a federal version of that bill,”Pugh identified as the main reason for her invitation.

“To be invited was such an honor….I’m humbled,” added the president-elect of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. “I’ve always listened to the president’s address. So, to be able to sit in the first lady’s box and to hear it while sitting in the actual chambers is a wonderful opportunity.”