Marquez Attends State of the Union Speech
A middle-school librarian from Robbins was looking on from the gallery as the president delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday before a joint session of Congress.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan had invited Terry Marquez as an honored guest. Marquez lost one of her twin sons in battle last fall.
Justin Marquez died Oct. 6 while on foot patrol in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, just one month after he arrived there.
After speaking about him on the Senate floor in December, Hagan invited his mother to come to Washington. Marquez took the train and met the Greensboro Democrat in her office Tuesday morning. The two spent the day together.
“It was wonderful,” Marquez said after her return. “I had a really great time.”
She shadowed the senator all day, from that morning through dinner with the Senate that evening. Marquez was Hagan’s only guest for the president’s first State of the Union report in his second term.
“It was very difficult to keep up with her,” Marquez said. “I followed her to the Senate chamber, where she was voting on the domestic violence against women bill.
“The Senate passed it a number of years ago, but the House had not acted on it at all, so they passed it again. Then I got to see her meeting different people in a beautiful room right outside the Senate chamber. I saw her interact with various groups all day long. It was very interesting.”
At dinner in the Capitol Building that night, Hagan took her from table to table, introducing Marquez to other senators from both parties.
“I really enjoyed speaking with Sen. Angus King from Maine,” she said. “His wife, Maggie, is from Wilmington, so it was really nice. I got to talk with Al Franken — had my picture taken with him — because I was a big fan of his before he ever became a senator.”
King and his wife were sharing a table with Marquez and Hagan at the buffet-style dinner in the Capitol Building. She found out that the Senate menu before every State of the Union joint sessions is always the same: chicken pot pie, asparagus and apple pie. Afterward, Hagan took Marquez about the room, introducing her.
“We got to talk with Sen. John McCain,” she said. “It was very interesting. We got to talk mainly about the troop withdrawal and my son Justin. Sen. Hagan told the story of my son Justin to every person we met. I spoke with Charles Schumer of New York — never met Richard Burr, never saw him or got to see him that day. I met just about all the women senators, Barbara Boxer from California, Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. She was the most engaging one I spoke with, and I told her my sons were born in her state. She said she would consider herself ‘their senator’ now. She said she would come down and help us in North Carolina. I really enjoyed talking with her.”
The day went well, with the librarian from Robbins feeling she and the senator were hitting it off well.
“She said she considers me a girlfriend, and we will be getting together again,” Marquez said. “We had a really enjoyable time. I did invite her to come to Robbins.”
Marquez met the press along with Hagan, did four TV interviews with her on Tuesday out of six the senator did. Then dinner, and then the speech.
“After the dinner we just sort of followed folks who took us up to the House of Representatives chamber, and the senators all went back to the Senate chamber,” she said. “They entered as a group before the Supreme Court and everybody else. I sat in the A-section — it’s kind of like a theater balcony — directly across from Obama.
“I was looking directly down at him — and then about two sections to my left, directly and diagonally across from where I was sitting, was Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.”
The most important part of the president’s speech for Marquez was the announcement that war in Afghanistan would soon be over. Troops would be coming home.
“I was thrilled about that,” she said. “That was the news all day long on the Hill. I am thrilled, very excited about that — just hoping they’ve completed their mission and that we’ve done all that we can do. It’s time for them to come home and leave it to the Afghan soldiers who’ve been trained to take care of their country.”
Marquez spoke to the senator’s staff about the struggles of the town.
“I did speak to her directly, that we would love to have her come and visit us here in Robbins,” she said. “There are problems she really needs to know about … the poverty rate and the immigration issue are the main ones.”
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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