Richmond anti-violence activist to attend SOTU

Young Richmond anti-violence activist D’vondre Woodards, 22, will be Democratic Rep. George Miller’s guest at President Barack Obama’s state of the union address at the Capitol tonight.

Members receive a single ticket apiece for a guest.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has invited an Iraq War veteran and Delaware native as his date. Sgt. Shaun Rieley now serves as Assistant Director of the Legislative Affairs Department at the American Legion.

Read on for the news releases from each office.

Miller Announces that a young man from a Richmond anti-violence group will be his guest at President Obama’s State of the Union Speech tonight

Washington, DC – Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) has invited a young man from Richmond, CA, who serves as a Senior Fellow as part of the city’s Operation Peacemaker to be his guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight in the U.S. Capitol.

According to the City of Richmond, the primary purpose of the Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS) Peacemaker Fellowship is to save lives. The fellowship is designed to create a viable space for selected individuals ages 16-25 to contribute in a real way to building and sustaining community peace, and community health and well-being, with the express purpose of eliminating gun violence in Richmond.

Each member of Congress receives one ticket for a guest to sit in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Representatives to watch the speech.

Miller has met with Richmond’s Peacemakers during their visits to D.C. in 2011 and is impressed by the work the young men do to develop a life path forward and mentor other young men in similar situations. After learning that the Peacemakers were going to be in Washington this week for the National Mentoring Summit, Miller extended an invitation to the organization. The group selected D’vondre Woodards, a 22 year old who grew up in Richmond, to attend the address as Miller’s guest.

Woodards has been involved with the Fellowship program for more than a year. He has already achieved Senior Fellow status as a result of his willingness to work with rival neighborhood individuals to create peaceful resolutions to existing conflicts. He attends school and works.

Raised in Richmond, his parents were largely absent as he was growing up. Woodards said he credits the power and impact of the Fellowship opportunity and mentoring for his personal transformation. He said that he now mentors young men in his community as a result of his appreciation for those people who mentored him at critical times in his life.

“I am glad to have the opportunity to share this unique opportunity to attend the President’s State of the Union speech with someone from my congressional district who has dedicated himself to making our community a better place to live,” said Miller. “The President’s speech will focus on making America a better place for all of us to live in and I know that Mr. Woodards and I will be listening closely to this important address.”


Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-11) will welcome veteran Sergeant Shaun Rieley to be his guest at the State of the Union address.  Sergeant Rieley is an Iraq War Veteran who now serves as Assistant Director of the Legislative Affairs Department at the American Legion.

 “I was pleased that Sergeant Rieley accepted my invitation.  It is a small thing that I can do for one of the brave men and women who have sacrificed to protect our country,” said Rep. McNerney.

 “Sergeant Rieley is a remarkable young man.  Like my son Michael, he felt compelled to enlist in the wake of the attacks on 9/11.  His spirit and courage exhibit the strength of character of our service men and women,” said Rep. McNerney.

 Background on Sergeant Shaun Rieley:

 After graduating from high school in the small southern-Delaware town of Millsboro in 1999, he enrolled in the University of Delaware and studied political science.  After the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he decided to join the Maryland Army National Guard as an infantryman.  Rieley attended basic training in 2004 at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and returned to Delaware to finish his degree. 

 After graduating in May of 2005, he received word that he would be deploying early the next year for a year-long tour of duty.  After this tour, he returned home, only to get word of his deployment to Iraq as a part of the surge.  After a 3 month train-up at Ft. Dix, N.J.  he deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.  He served in Iraq from September of 2007 through March of 2008. 

 Upon his return, Rieley decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching, which he completed in December of 2010.  He applied to a second graduate program at St. John’s College in Annapolis, where he is currently working towards his Master of Arts in Liberal Arts, emphasis Philosophy and Classics.  He is currently employed by the American Legion, where he works as the Assistant Director of the Legislative Affairs Department.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen