Jim Winner thought that scoring a spot in the House gallery for President Trump’s State of the Union address was pretty cool. But when he was led to his seat, his evening got even better.
The 1990 Hillsboro High School graduate found himself surrounded by the Trump family and the various special guests who were recognized by the president as part of his Tuesday night address.
Winner, the son of longtime local educator and sports official Jim Winner and his wife, Joan, is on the board of directors of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. A colleague had asked him the previous day if he was interested in attending the State of the Union address courtesy of an extra ticket that was available from Paul Irving, the sergeant-at-arms for the House of Representatives who announces the president’s arrival just prior to the speech.
Winner accepted the offer, and, following instructions, showed up for a 6 p.m. dinner in the House dining room. Gallery guests had to be seated by 8:15 p.m. for the 9 p.m. nationally-televised address.
Winner was led to his assigned seat, and was more than surprised when he soon found members of the Trump family filling the seats around him – son Eric and his wife Lara to his immediate right, the First Lady, Melania, and Trump son Don Jr. a few seats down, the president’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner just a row beneath him to his right, and daughter Tiffany just a row above him.
Also surrounding Winner were the many special guests who were introduced by the president throughout his remarks for their heroism or sacrifice.
Winner had given his parents a heads-up that they might see him on TV. But later, his phone began blowing up with texts from friends saying, “Hey, there was someone who looked just like you at the State of the Union.”
Winner said he was impressed with the Trumps. He said they introduced themselves to him “like I didn’t know who they were.” He said he had a pleasant conversation with Eric and Lara Trump since they were seated right beside him.
“They were very down to earth,” said Winner.
Winner is the chief legal officer and general counsel for Peraton, a private sector national security company in Herndon, Va., that “provides innovative, reliable solutions to the nation’s most sensitive and mission-critical programs and systems,” according to its website.
He is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and served 16 years in the Air Force. Winner was named the 2016 National Capital Region Outstanding Chief Legal Officer by the Association of Corporate Counsel.
When Trump wrapped up his speech, Winner thought he had completed a special evening. But another treat was yet to come.
Winner was led to the sergeant-at-arms’ offices, since that was the source of his ticket. As fate would have it, that’s also where the president is taken after the speech to pose for pictures with the special guests and other dignitaries who want a photo with the commander-in-chief.
Winner was not photographed with the president, but he was close enough to say, “Good job!” He said the president smiled and responded, “Thank you!”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @AbernathyGary.