Jill Biden's 'virtual reception' presents people inspired by new administration's vision


First lady Jill Biden teed up President Biden’s joint address to Congress with a “virtual reception” showcasing people inspired by the new administration’s vision for the nation.

The pomp and circumstance that usually surrounds a president’s first national address was scaled back due to coronavirus limitations, and the viewing box typically reserved for first ladies and their guests didn’t make the cut.

Forced to get creative, Mrs. Biden shared the virtual stage with a group that included a “Dreamer,” a gun-control advocate, and a transgender teen.

The event kicked off with Mrs. Biden assuring her guests that Mr. Biden has been fighting for them with a sense of urgency over the first 100 days of his presidency.

“From getting the virus under control to common sense gun safety control, for making sure students have the broadband they need to learn, to defending LGBTQ rights, he knows these are not just issues to be debated or polled, they are the challenges that shape your lives, the things that keep you up at night,” Mrs. Biden said. “He knows you are counting on him for real solutions and you can’t wait.”

The guest list has traditionally been a way for a first lady to put an imprint on a joint address by sending a message about the administration’s plans and priorities.

At her husband’s first address to a joint session of Congress, former first lady Melania Trump hosted the wife of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, relatives of victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and the daughter of a health-care start-up founder.

Ms. Biden’s guest list featured: Javier Quiroz, a DACA recipient and nurse; Maria-Isabel Ballivian, executive director of Annandale Christian Community For Action Child Development Center; Tatiana Washington, anti-gun advocate; Stella Keating, the first transgender teen to testify before the U.S. Senate; and Theron Rutyna, IT director for the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Ms. Quiroz told Mrs. Biden he was born in Mexico and that his parents had brought him into the United States around age 3 in search of a better life.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that the Obama-Biden administration established in 2012 allowed him to land his nursing job and work on the frontline of the coronavirus at Houston Methodist hospital, he said.

“It has been challenging — especially with the previous administration. But DACA has given me all sorts of opportunities and I hope I can continue being in this country as a productive member of society because there is still a lot of work to do during this pandemic,” he said.

One by one the guests in the virtual session praised the Biden administration for sharing their vision on education, gun violence, human rights, and expanding broadband internet.

“I am so inspired by the president’s commitment to all LGBTQ Americans, including his support of the Equality Act,” Ms. Keating said. “Finally to hear President Biden say all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear no matter who they are or who they love told me that I am valued, that I matter and that I belong.” 

“This gives me hope and more importantly it gets me excited about the future,” she said.

Ms. Washington thanked the White House for sliding $5 billion for gun violence prevention into the American Jobs Plan, and Mr. Rutyna said the administration’s efforts to invest more in broadband to Indian reservations across the country is a game-changer.

“This administration is just committed to getting broadband across this nation,” Mrs. Biden said.

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