General Motors CEO Is Among Michelle Obama's State of Union Guests

Auto industry recovery, manufacturing jobs are likely a speech focus.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaks as she unveils the new GMC Canyon midsize pickup truck at Russell Industrial Center in advance of the North American International Auto Show on Jan. 12, 2014, in Detroit.
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First lady Michelle Obama's guests for Tuesday's State of the Union include General Motors CEO Mary Barra, indicating that President Barack Obama will make manufacturing jobs and the recovery of the auto industry a focus of his annual speech to Congress.

General Motors emerged from government ownership in December and the company appointed Barra, a former auto engineer, as its new CEO in early January.

"The guests who have been invited to sit with the first lady represent the stories of millions of Americans across the country, who are working hard to better their communities, improve their own economic outcomes and help restore opportunity for all," the White House said in a statement announcing the guests.

[READ: Obama's State of the Union to Focus on Economy, Executive Action]

Guests of the first lady seated in the balcony above the president during the speech are often referred to during the speech as an example of a national accomplishment or a goal for the country to strive for. Previous guests have included war heroes and successful immigrants.

Sales by General Motors and other major U.S. car companies grew during 2013, and the president has in the past celebrated the government bailout of the auto industry as a success that helped the firms regroup and create new jobs.

"The industry has added more than 372,000 new jobs, its strongest growth since the 1990s," Obama said in a statement in December celebrating the end of the bailout of auto companies that began under former President George W. Bush at the start of the Great Recession. "Thanks to the workers on our assembly lines, some of the most high-tech, fuel-efficient cars in the world are once again designed, engineered, and built right here in America, and the rest of the world is buying more of them than ever before."

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Analysts have also criticized the bailout of the auto industry as costly for taxpayers since the Treasury Department sold its stock in General Motors at $39 billion, taking a loss on its original investment of $49.5 billion.

The first lady's guest list also includes another female executive from the Detroit auto industry, Andra Rush, the founder and chair of The Rush Group, Detroit Manufacturing Systems. Rush is descended from the Mohawk Tribe from the Six-Nation Reservation, and her company manufactures interior components for auto makers including the Ford Motor Company.

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