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Washington (AFP) – The first female CEO of the largest American automaker will be honored by sitting with Michelle Obama when the president delivers his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

The White House announced that Mary Barra, 51, a veteran of General Motors, will be front and center when President Barack Obama delivers his speech on his policy outline for the year 2014.

Barra has worked at GM for 33 years, rising through a series of manufacturing, engineering and senior staff positions.

She was appointed to the top post on January 15.

In 2013, Fortune Magazine named Barra one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and Forbes Magazine names her one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.”

The White House has described the people chosen to witness the president’s address in the VIP box as representing “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.”

Another is Antoinette Tuff, an Atlanta bookkeeper who prevented a shooting at an elementary school in August of last year.

“Tuff, a mother of one daughter and one son, talked the would-be shooter down, sharing her personal struggles, discussing love and doing her best to connect with him until he surrendered before harming anyone,” the White House said in a statement.

“Now, instead of being known for another tragic school shooting, August 20, 2013 is remembered for one woman’s grace under pressure,” it added.

Others invited to join the First Lady include Ed Lee, the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, and Aliana Arzola-Pinero, a fourth grader from Puerto Rico, who on her second try won a healthy cooking contest in 2013 sponsored by Michelle Obama.

Photo: Daniel Roland via AFP

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