In 1982, Ronald Reagan invited Lenny Skutnick, the government employee who dove into the icy waters of the Potomac River to rescue passengers following the crash of Air Florida Flight 90, to sit with First Lady Nancy Reagan in the House of Representatives balcony during the State of the Union address. Since that time, Reagan and subsequent presidents have found it useful to recognize during major presidential addresses ordinary citizens responsible for extraordinary acts of citizenship. In this book, Stephen Frantzich tells the fascinating stories of forty heroes who have earned this presidential recognition and explores the larger context of whether they represent a presidential gimmick or a touchstone with the American spirit. Taken together, the stories of how they got there, their decision to allow themselves to be used as symbols, and the impact of the recognition tells a great deal about the presidency, politics, and the role of heroes in American society.
About the Author
Stephen Frantzich is professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and is the author of numerous books, including Citizen Democracy and Founding Father.