Refaai Hamo, 55, a native of Syria now living in Detroit, will sit in first lady Michelle Obama’s box in the House of Representatives gallery for Tuesday night’s speech. Hamo drew international attention last month after he was featured in the popular blog “Humans of New York.”
The scientist fled Syria’s civil war in 2013 after his family home was destroyed by a bomb, killing his wife, daughter and five other relatives. He developed stomach cancer and had trouble getting treatment in Turkey, where he and millions of other Syrians have fled. After two years, he was approved for refugee status in the United States and arrived in Detroit last month.
His ordeal prompted Obama to call him “an inspiration,” and actor Edward Norton organized a fundraising drive for him.