Ex-Cuba Prisoner, CVS Boss Among Michelle's Guests
President preps for State of the Union amid healthier poll numbers
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 19, 2015 11:16 AM CST
Alan Gross, facing camera, is hugged by Tim Rieser, an aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Dec. 17, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base upon his arrival from Cuba. Gross' wife, Judy, is at left.   (AP Photo/Jill Zuckman)

(Newser) – President Obama goes into tomorrow's State of the Union address with some momentum: A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds his approval rating now stands at 50%, which is the highest since spring 2013; improving views on the economy are a big factor, the Post reports. Meanwhile, the White House has released a list of Michelle Obama's guests for the event—a list that likely offers a preview of some of the issues the president will address. Among those guests, per Politico and USA Today:

  • Alan Gross, a US subcontractor, was recently freed from five years of detention in Cuba; he rejoined his wife, Judy, the day President Obama announced warming relations with Cuba.
  • Larry Merlo is CEO of CVS Health, which recently stopped selling tobacco products.
  • Pranav Shetty led a pair of Ebola treatment units in Liberia, the White House says.
  • Ana Zamora is one of a number of guests who caught the president's attention through letters. She's a student who has benefited from Obama administration programs to ease restrictions on migrants who arrived in the US as kids.
  • Scott Kelly is an astronaut who's about to spend a year aboard the International Space Station; the work is aimed at helping send people to Mars "by the 2030s," per the White House.
  • Malik Bryant is another letter writer. For Christmas, the boy from Chicago wrote to Santa Claus: "All I ask for is for safety I just wanna be safe." His letter made it to the president.
Click for the full list.