WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is featuring eight Americans as "citizen co-chairs" of his inauguration, a new role created to highlight his first-term accomplishments with examples of lives that have either been improved by his actions or inspired his presidency.
Inaugural planners say the honorees include a woman with a brain tumor who no longer is denied health care for a pre-existing condition; an autoworker who got her job back after the General Motors bailout; and a gay pilot-in-training kicked out of the Air Force before the president repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Inauguration officials said Wednesday that the president has met most of the eight individuals during his first term and their inclusion in inaugural events is meant to showcase his administration's core values through real-life examples that people across the country can relate to.
It's a time-honored presidential practice to illustrate policy ideas with such anecdotes, and Obama frequently does so. He had those who say they were helped by his priorities introduce him at campaign rallies, and he frequently sprinkled their stories throughout his speeches. On Wednesday he announced gun control legislation before families of those killed in the Connecticut elementary school shooting. But inaugural planners say this is the first time people affected by a president's policies have been given such an official title at an inauguration.
The eight will participate in the National Day of Service on Saturday that kicks off the inaugural events over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. That's the president's call for Americans to serve their communities to honor King's legacy. After Obama's swearing-in ceremony Monday, the eight co-chairs will ride on an inaugural parade float highlighting the inaugural theme of "Our People: Our Future," then attend the official balls that night.
"Every day, I'm inspired by the determination, grit and resilience of the American people," Obama said in a statement provided by his inaugural committee. "The stories of these extraordinary men and women highlight both the progress we've made and how much we have left to do. They remind us that when we live up to the example set by the American people, there is no limit to how bright our future can be."
The list of co-chairs and their descriptions by the Presidential Inaugural Committee are: