Pinoy nurse among 'extraordinary Americans' at SOTU
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A Filipina nurse is among a select group of "extraordinary Americans" who sat beside US First Lady Michelle Obama during the 2013 State of the Union address of US President Barack Obama Tuesday, February 12 (Wednesday, February 13 in Manila).
Menchu de Luna Sanchez, a nurse working at the NYU Langone Medical Center, joined a select group of "extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union Address," the White House said in an update on its official blog.
"When Hurricane Sandy cut the power at NYU Langone Medical Center, Menchu Sanchez, a Registered Nurse, devised a plan to transport twenty at-risk infants to intensive care units around the city, directing the staff to carry the babies down eight flights of stairs with cell phones lighting the way," the White House said.
She was later mentioned by the President himself in the address, citing her as an example for Americans helping fellow citizens.
"We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe," Obama said.
Sanchez told WCBS 880 radio in New York that they were able to make 4 transports of babies to different hospitals that night, with some nurses walking backwards to carefully handle their young patients.
"I have a baby in my hands with a breathing tube in and I was thinking, ‘if I’m going to miss just one step, everybody will fall with me," she said in the WCBS interview.
She did this despite the fact her own home in Secaucus, New Jersey, was flooding. "[She] only thought of the babies in her care," the White House added. After the storm, President Obama himself called the hospital after he learned about what the Filipina nurse did.
Sanchez has been working as a nurse in New York for over 25 years, after immigrating to the US back in the 1980s. She currently lives with her husband and two children.
"This is a dream come true for most people — to meet the president — and I never thought I would get this chance. I voted for him twice and I’ve been following Michelle Obama’s philosophy for years as first lady. I can’t wait," she said in an interview with NorthJersey.com.
She told the website she planned to wear traditional Filipino dress, but the guests were told to "dress simply." She ended up buying two outfits for her Washington trip.
All in all, Mrs. Obama has 23 "remarkable individuals" seated with her, "from students to teachers and innovators, to entrepreneurs and those serving in our armed forces."
The president gives a speech to a joint session of Congress each year, and the careful choice of guests often reflects the issues the commander-in-chief intends to highlight in his address.
Among the key guests in the Obama box was college student Alan Aleman who was born in Mexico, and whose status as an illegal immigrant points to what may be the chief political issue of the year: what to do about 11 million estimated undocumented migrants in the country.
Obama, as well as a bipartisan group of US senators, have unveiled proposals that include a pathway to eventual citizenship for most of the millions who entered the country without permission, or overstayed their visas.
Joining Aleman was fellow Latino Carlos Evans, a US Marine Corps sergeant from Puerto Rico who lost his legs and his left hand to injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Michelle Obama has been active in programs helping war veterans returning to the United States.
While the president is expected to announce he will pull 34,000 US troops home from Afghanistan in the next year, Evans's presence is a reminder of the perils that US soldiers still face in a country that Washington has spent more than a decade trying to stabilize.
The first lady visited Chicago last week to attend the funeral of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was caught in a gang crossfire just days after performing as a high school band majorette at Obama's inauguration. Hadiya's parents will join Obama for the speech.
Also invited by Michelle Obama was Kaitlin Roig, a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman massacred 20 children and six adults in December.
Dozens of lawmakers this year chose to invite victims of gun violence to Obama's speech as well.
Sitting in the first lady's box alongside Apple's Tim Cook, one of the best-paid chief executives in the world, will be small business owners and laborers, as well as Tracey Hepner, a co-founder of the Military Partners and Families Coalition.
Hepner, who works for the Department of Homeland Security, is married to the first openly gay or lesbian general officer in the military.
The Pentagon officially extended some military benefits to same-sex partners Monday.
And in a shout out to science lovers, Obama also invited Bobak Ferdowsi, flight director of the Mars Curiosity Rover who became known as "Mohawk Guy" last year during NASA's coverage of the module landing on the red planet. - with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com