Aside from the pundits, prognosticators, and those determined to feverishly live-Tweet the event, people don’t generally hang on every word of the State of the Union address. The president and his speech writers are well aware of this; that’s why the visuals have always been so important. The event is as much about who is in the room as the words that are spoken. But it’s also about who’s not in the room. Especially when it comes to designated survivor — the one member of the president’s cabinet who skips the event in case they’re required to assume the presidency if an attack on the Capitol “wiped out the other members of the presidential line of succession.” For about an hour, the designated survivor is one of the most important people in the world. As one former cabinet member explains, if all goes well, that power is fleeting. “Here I was just a few minutes earlier, almost the most powerful person in the country, and now I couldn’t even get a cab. There’s a great lesson there in the impermanence of power.”

+ Boston Globe: Who’s been invited to the State of the Union tonight?

+ Newsweek: Eighteen VIPs who will be guests at the speech.

+ Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to approve gay marriage licenses, will also be in attendance. Although no one seems to know who invited her.