Obama SOTU Guests: Syrian 'Inspiration,' Empty Chair

Refugee Refaai Hamo lost wife, daughter in bomb blast
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2016 12:19 AM CST

(Newser) – One of the guests at President Obama's final State of the Union address will be a man that some of his potential Republican successors wouldn't allow into the country. Refaai Hamo, a Syrian refugee who moved to Michigan last month after his tragic story went viral, will sit with Michelle Obama in the House of Representatives' viewing gallery, reports USA Today. The 55-year-old left Syria in 2013 after a bomb killed his wife, a daughter, and several other relatives. Edward Norton started a fundraiser for Hamo after his story surfaced on the Humans of New York blog, which called him the Scientist.

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Hamo—who moved to the US with his son and three surviving daughters—says he was thrilled to be welcomed to the US by Obama, who called him "an inspiration." "I felt that hope was revived as well as the strength to continue my dreams and ambition in my new country," Hamo said in a statement. "I am so proud and honored to be in this country and look forward to one day becoming an American citizen so that we can be part of making America a strong and great country." Other SOTU guests include Jim Obergefell, plaintiff in the case that led to the legalization of gay marriage across the US, and the White House says a chair will be left empty in memory of victims of gun violence, reports the Detroit Free Press. (Read more President Obama stories.)

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