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Remembering the Lenny Skutniks of yore

By Ed O'Keefe

Remember Lenny Skutnik?

In Jan. 1982 Skutnik, a Congressional Budget Office employee, dove into the icy waters of the Potomac River to save Priscilla Tirado, who was too weak to grab a line dropped to her from a rescue helicopter. Days later he was a guest at President Reagan's State of the Union address, earning an on-air mention -- if you will -- and beginning a presidential tradition of recognizing everyday Americans during the annual address to Congress.

But do you remember Bruce Ritter? Or Barbara Proctor? Mother Hale? Capt. Jeff Tolbert? Carlos Rosas? No?

Well, the good folks at culled the video archives for every mention of an "everyday American" since that 1982 speech. See the mention and their faces in the clip above.

In addition to the handful of people called out by Reagan, Bill Clinton recognized about 30 people everyday folks, and George W. Bush called out 25.

President Obama has used the technique so sparingly, mentioning just two everyday-ers by name in his first State of the Union and none in his second. But he's named names in other speeches on unemployment insurance, immigration and the economy, according to

So if you're still looking for your 15 minutes of fame, maybe finding your way into a presidential speech wouldn't be so bad, eh?

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By Ed O'Keefe  | August 11, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Administration  
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