This Is What It’s Like to Attend the State of the Union

(Courtesy of Lakesha Cole)
(Courtesy of Lakesha Cole)

When she looks back on Jan. 30, 2018, the thing she'll remember most is just being in the room, that close to history and an event that is staple of our democracy.

That's what Marine Corps spouse Lakesha Cole said about her attendance at President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address this week, which she attended as the guest of Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat.

"The State of the Union address is one of those historic moments that only a small percentage of Americans get to witness person. Regardless of political affiliation, I was really excited to be there," she said.

Cole, who is from Virginia and is currently stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, is also a military spouse entrepreneur powerhouse. So when Kaine's staff contacted the Military Spouse Advocacy Network looking for someone who may be able to attend, Cole was a logical choice thanks to her ties to Virginia and personal work and experience in spouse employment issues.

Seated in the gallery area just a few areas down from First Lady Melania Trump, Cole had a birds-eye view of the proceedings and event. Sadly, guests are not permitted to bring personal electronics, including phones or cameras, into the gallery area, so she wasn't able to take any photos during the speech.

Anyone who has watched the State of the Union knows the speech is frequently interrupted for applause -- standing and seated. Cole said she kept an eye on Kaine, and chose to stand and sit whenever he did, rather than trying to know what the protocol was by herself. She was also seated next to a woman who is a Hill staffer and was able to point out different key people on the floor and describe what they do.

Cole said she was honored to be able to represent the military spouse community while spending time with Kaine and his staff. She said that one-on-one time was another highlight of the trip, and let her communicate her thoughts on the military spouse employment problem with the senator and staff. Kaine is expected to introduce legislation this month that will address a variety of spouse employment problems, including operating businesses on base.

"We have this perception of politicians that we see on TV, that it's a publicity stunt that they only do it for rating or the camera," she said. "I didn't feel like that at all."

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