At least one military spouse is about to get a front row seat to the 2018 State of the Union.
Lakesha Cole, a military spouse entrepreneur powerhouse and a former Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, will be attending the annual presidential address Jan. 30 as a guest of Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat.
Cole, originally from Portsmouth, Virginia is well known in the military spouse community for running a successful, legal (that's harder than it sounds) small business in Okinawa, and then opening a brick and mortar version stateside in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after PCSing to Camp Lejeune. She's also launched the successful Rosie Planner and Rosie Co. product line with the help of fellow North Carolina spouse Krystel Hudson Spell. She also is the author of "Mommy Retailing," a great book on how she did it.
Kaine, however, has invited her in recognition of her work on the larger spouse employment issue. In 2017 he met with a group of spouses in Virginia, including Cole, to discuss military spouse unemployment and the military spouse professional license issue.
“I hope I can advance the conversation and continue to advance policy to help bridge that unemployment gap,” Cole said. “I hope I can put a face to all the many, many stories that they hear.”
Cole sees entrepreneurship and fostering small business friendly environments on and off base, as a key answer to the ongoing employment struggle.
“It gives me freedom of my time and the freedom to keep up with the hectic lifestyle of being a military spouse,” she said. “For me it was about the flexibility and portability as well being able to relocate.”
Each Senator and Congressman can invite one guest to the annual State of the Union address. Guests are seated in the upstairs gallery area of the chamber.
I'm thrilled Mrs. Cole will join me as my guest in Washington Tuesday," Kaine said in a release. "After five transfers herself, Lakesha knows first-hand how much military spouses sacrifice in service to our country, and the toll that can take on a spouse's career and their family. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and is not only thriving as a successful small business owner, but also mentors other military spouses and aspiring entrepreneurs. Military spouses sacrifice every single day, and we must find a way to lower the high unemployment rate and better support our military families."
Now a not-so important detail, but interesting anyway. What does one wear when attending the State of the Union address? Cole said she'll be wearing black along with all the Democratic women in solidarity on the issue of sexual harassment.
This story was updated Jan. 29 with comments from Cole.