Sandburg Alumna’s Experience at State of the Union ‘Surreal’

  Danielle Williams
  Monday, February 19, 2018 9:29 AM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Sarah Miller received a call early in December with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: an invitation from U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos to the State of the Union address.

A Facebook comment from Miller, a 2017 Carl Sandburg College nursing alumna, discussing lead levels in Galesburg water sparked Bustos, her congresswoman, to reach out to her last May. At the time, Miller was a nursing student and struggling to find the funds to fix the lead pipes in her Galesburg home. She feared she may have to drop out of school to afford the lead water service line replacement.

Bustos arranged to meet Miller and her family to hear more about their story. Soon after, Bustos helped Galesburg secure a $4 million forgivable loan to help homeowners like Miller replace lead service lines. Miller thought that was the last time she’d hear from Bustos, but then the congresswoman called her in mid-December to invite her to be her guest at the State of the Union and share her story.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening” Miller said.

She didn’t know what to expect and how much time she would get to spend with Bustos. Miller ended up eating lunch with Bustos, watched her vote in the House of Representatives and saw her do live interviews. When it came time for the State of the Union, Miller watched from the gallery while her husband, Tim, watched from Bustos’ office.

“Being in that room, I was star-struck” Miller said. “It was a room full of very intelligent people.”

Miller saw several prominent political figures in addition to President Donald Trump, including Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She even sat just 15 seats away from first lady Melania Trump, and Bustos introduced Miller to both senators from Illinois, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

After the address, Miller had to wait in the gallery until the president left the room. Once out of the room, she struggled to find her way back through the tunnels of the Capitol and to Bustos’ office. Along the way, Miller ran into scientist Bill Nye.

“I ran up to him and shook his hand because I knew how envious my husband would be,” Miller said. “He’s a huge fan.” 

Once the Millers’ eventful 20-hour day was over, they could finally rest, but they had a busy schedule ahead of them exploring Washington, D.C., over the next few days. The Capitol building, White House, Arlington National Cemetery, Supreme Court, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Archives Building and World War II Memorial were among the historical landmarks the couple got to visit.

Miller called the trip and experience “surreal.”

“Getting to see so many politicians in person, even though some aren’t very well known,” Miller said, “you get to see how much they truly do care about people and they do so much more than we realize.”



Sarah Miller (middle), a 2017 Carl Sandburg College graduate, and her husband, Tim, walk alongside U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos in a tunnel of the Capitol Building in January in Washington, D.C., when they were guests of Bustos to the State of the Union Address. (Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos)

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