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San Francisco veteran to attend State of the Union speech as Pelosi’s guest

A man and a woman stand smiling beside two framed documents displayed on easels in a formal room with flags.
Michael Blecker meets with Rep. Nancy Pelosi at the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Room before the State of the Union speech on Thursday. | Source: Courtesy Nancy Pelosi's Office

A longtime San Francisco veteran rights advocate and nonprofit executive is heading to Washington, D.C., to attend President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Wednesday night.

Michael Blecker, a U.S. Army veteran with combat infantry service in Vietnam in the late 1960s, is invited to the highly exclusive event as Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi's guest. Since 1982, Blecker has been the executive director of the veteran support group Swords to Plowshares, which serves about 3,000 homeless and low-income veterans in the Bay Area every year.

"I am honored to be Speaker Pelosi's guest at the State of the Union," Blecker said in a statement. "I look forward to learning more about President Biden's future plans to continue supporting effective programs to house our nation's veterans."

Blecker thanked Pelosi for the invitation and her dedicated effort to support veterans, especially in passing the PACT Act to provide billions of dollars for veterans' health care, as many of them suffered from the aftermath of war and toxic exposure during military service. He also advocated against the "dangerous efforts" to privatize veterans' medical care.

A man in a suit and glasses speaks at a transparent podium with microphones.
Michael Blecker will be a guest for Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the State of the Union on Tuesday. | Source: Courtesy Swords to Plowshares

Biden's speech this year will be closely watched by media and political observers, as he and former President Donald Trump recently won significant victories in the Super Tuesday election and will face off again in November.

Each member of Congress can invite one guest to the president's annual event, and this year, many international news figures are on the guest list. 

Other guests from the Bay Area include Contra Costa County School Superintendent Lynn Mackey, Stanford University AI expert Fei-Fei Li and San Mateo County labor leader Julie Lind. Biden may acknowledge Blecker's presence because of Pelosi's high-profile status and their close political ties.

Pelosi praised Blecker in a statement, saying he has been a relentless champion for veterans nationwide, helping vulnerable veterans to access health care and social services, housing, skills development and job opportunities.

"Michael Blecker's heroism and patriotism embody the best of America," she said. "Blecker's presence in the House Chamber will serve as a powerful reminder of our sacred obligation: just as our military leaves no one behind on the battlefield, we must leave no veteran behind when they come home."

The speech will start at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Han Li can be reached at