Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs, is among the attendees of the State of the Union address scheduled for 9 p.m. tonight (live stream here). According to the official guest list, the White House invited Powell Jobs, along with other distinguished individuals, to attend the State of the Union address, including billionaire Warren Buffett’s secretary Debbie Bosanek, cancer survivor Adam Rapp, and Mark Kelly, former astronaut and husband of outgoing Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The news becomes interesting knowing the White House usually invites people that have something to do with a proposal or initiative the President will outline in the address. Powell Jobs may have been invited for her focus on education, the arts and women’s human rights.

Vanguard has it that Obama will welcome Powell Jobs to his State of the Union address out of respect for her late husband. According to the White House, Powell Jobs will watch Obama’s speech from First Lady Michelle Obama’s box in the House of Representatives. In December of last year, Obama gave Jobs’ widow a seat on the White House Council for Community Solutions. Chaired by former Gates Foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer, the body advises the President on job creation and social issues. eBay CEO John Donahoe and singer Jon Bon Jovi are also among the members.

Powell Jobs’ ties in education could also prove key, as education is allegedly one of key focus areas of tonight’s State of the Union address. Let’s not forget that Apple held an education-focused media event last week, debuting digital textbooks on the iPad priced at $14.99 or less and a free tool that lets anyone create and publish digital textbooks to iBookstore. In just three days, more than 350,000 copies of digital textbooks were downloaded from the store. Oh, and Obama is an avid fan of Apple’s tablet.

According to Wikipedia, Powell Jobs and Carlos Watson cofounded College Track in 1997, a Palo Alto non-profit to help improve high school graduation, college enrollment and college graduation rates for low-income families. Since then, 90 percent of College Track’s high school graduates have gone to four-year colleges and 70 percent have finished college within six years, which is 46 percentage points higher than the national average for first-generation students. Powell Jobs explained in the cover story from spring 2010 issue of Philanthropy Magazine: “We want to keep our standards high, though, and are reluctant to grow through franchising or through dissemination of our curriculum and training”.

Steve Jobs told Wired in a 1996 interview that he thought technology could not fix education due to bureaucracy:

I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent. It’s a political problem. The problems are sociopolitical. The problems are unions. You plot the growth of the NEA [National Education Association] and the dropping of SAT scores, and they’re inversely proportional. The problems are unions in the schools. The problem is bureaucracy.

“Inside Apple” is set for release tomorrow, Jan. 25, with the hardcover available for $16.92 at Amazon (pre-order), $12.99 for the Kindle, and $12.99 on the iBookstore According to his biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs was keen on reinventing the world of textbooks, for which he received public praise from McGraw-Hill CEO. Apple’s cofounder, who died after a long battle with cancer last October told News Corp., chairperson Rupert Murdoch at a dinner in early 2011 that his company’s tablet computer could obsolete the paper textbooks. Apple originally wanted to hire great writers directly that would create textbooks made available free on iPad. However, Jobs changed his stance and eventually sat down with publishers, such as Pearson Education, to discuss partnerships. He thought the process by which American states certify textbooks was “corrupt,” arguing in the authorized biography: “If we can make textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.”

A feature in the New York Times from last week asserted that Jobs expressed his worries a year ago at the Silicon Valley Summit that “we don’t talk enough about solutions” in this country. Also, according to the article, when asked by President Obama what it would take to make iPhones in the United States and why the work cannot come home, Jobs quipped: “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” Republican Presidential candidates tackled the job farming issue in CNN’s Southern Republican Presidential Debate last week. Rick Santorum suggested a zero percent tax should Apple bring the money earned overseas back to United States and invest it in the plant equipment.

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