Anybody remember Lenny Skutnik?

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I’ve got a great trivia question for y’all. It involves a man by the name of Lenny Skutnik and it is an appropriate trivia question for this week. I’ll get to Lenny Skutnik in a moment and, no, he is not one of the characters in the sitcom Laverne and Shirley. That was Lenny Kosnowski.
Today is Tuesday; the day I usually write this column. On this particular Tuesday, tonight, we will hear the President’s State of the Union address. Lenny Skutnik did not write the speech, but he does have a connection to the State of the Union address.
To be honest, I don’t listen to many of the President’s speeches. They’re too long and boring. My sermons may be boring, too, but I try not to make them too long.
By the way, the President who gave the longest State of the Union was Bill “Bubba” Clinton at one hour and twenty-five minutes. Ouch!
There will be much fanfare as the President arrives at this joint session of Congress. The Supremes will be there, too. Of course I don’t mean Diana Ross and the Supremes (showing my age); I mean the nine Supreme Court justices. Lenny Skutnik is not a member of the Supreme Court.
In addition to all the “glad-handing,” shaking of hands and hugging, that is part of the President’s arrival and departure, there are a lot of standing “o’s” and applause during the speech, unless, of course, you are a Republican. The Republicans are all required to eat an unripe persimmon before the speech so their expressions can be duly noted as “sourpusses.”
One of the most interesting parts of the speech is the President’s allusion to the guests who might be sitting with the First Lady. Sometimes these people are heroes that we would all know, but many times they are common folk whose stories of rising above the difficulties of life are emphasized and appreciated.
This year there will be a young boy from Chicago who wrote a letter to Santa Claus. His name is Malik Bryant and his letter was a plea for safety in that gang-ridden and violent city. All he wanted from Santa was “safety; I just want to be safe.” His letter was redirected to the White House and he is one of many who have been invited to sit with Michelle Obama tonight.
Professional athletes have been invited. Hank Aaron, major league baseball’s all-time homerun champ was invited in 2000. War heroes are invited. People who might have been a part of some nationally known tragedy, like a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, might be invited. It’s always interesting to see just who might be sitting with the First Lady.
The tradition of having people sit in the First Lady’s viewing box during the State of the Union was begun in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. The address was given on January 26, but two weeks before, on January 13, a government employee in Washington helped rescue a woman who had been on Air Florida Flight 90. It crashed into the Potomac River.
The woman was too weak to grab the lifeline that was lowered from a rescue helicopter and would have drowned except for the heroism of one Lenny Skutnik. For his act, he was invited to hear the 1982 State of the Union seated beside Nancy Reagan in her special viewing box. Now you know who Lenny Skutnik is.

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