Each member of Congress gets to invite one guest to the State of the Union address, and this year, Democrat Joe Morelle is extending that honor to Deborah Hughes, president and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House.
Hughes said she is humbled to have the chance to witness the moment in history.
She said those who are feeling defeated over today's bitter partisanship can take a lesson from the social rights activist and suffrage leader.
Anthony saw some of the most turbulent and divisive times during her lifetime, Hughes said, including slavery, three presidential assassinations, and the violent seizure of indigenous lands.
"To the point where Congress people were bludgeoning each other on the floors of Congress, and we had state-sanctioned Jim Crow laws and lynching," Hughes said. "She really saw human nature at its worst in terms of our government, but she passionately believed we could do better and it was all worth fighting for."
Morelle says he chose Hughes as his guest tonight to call attention to the new barriers that threaten to roll back the progress that has been made in the fight for equality.
Hughes will be seated in the gallery of the House of Representatives along with the other people invited by members of Congress.
"I can't decide whether to practice my poker face, or to let anything show as I respond," she said as she anticipates seeing President Donald Trump deliver his fourth State of the Union addresss.
"For me, the power will be not so much in what the president says or doesn't say," Hughes added, "but in the idea of being there as being witnesses at this moment of history."
2020 includes some major milestones in the history of women's rights. It is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which recognizes women's right to vote. Feb. 15 marks the 200th anniversary of Susan B. Anthony's birth, and this year is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House on Madison Street in Rochester, where the social rights activist and suffrage leader lived.