Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Guests Were Stars in Address

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Guests Were Stars in Address

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Note to readers: See Sunday's Reason section for extra letters, cartoons and opinion columns. It also will include the full page of Downtown commentary.

Credit President Ronald Reagan with starting the best part of State of the Union speeches.

The former actor knew how to communicate and how to grab an audience's attention -- not by dry statistics and policy prescriptions but by the dramatic stories of real people.

In 1982, almost 200 years after President George Washington gave his first annual message to Congress, Reagan invited Lenny Skutnik to attend.

Skutnik, a 28-year-old employee at the Congressional Budget Office, saw an Air Force plane crash into Washington's 14th Street Bridge. Skutnik jumped into the cold January waters and pulled victims ashore.

From then on, these humane touches in the State of the Union addresses were called "Skutniks," Time magazine reported.

President Donald Trump's address to Congress and the nation Tuesday evening was no exception. Stories behind the group of citizens were inspiring and at times chill-producing.

There was Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old from Redding Calif., who noticed that veterans' graves needed flags on Veterans Day. So he began a movement that has placed 40,000 flags at veterans' graves. Wow.

There was Celestino Martinez who served 15 years in the Air Force before becoming a special agent for Homeland Security. He took on gangs and led arrests of nearly 400 members including more than 220 from the notorious MS-13 gang.

There was Ryan Holets, a police officer in Albuquerque, who found a pregnant homeless woman preparing to shoot up with heroin. The woman wanted a safe home for her baby so Ryan and his wife adopted the child and named her Hope.

There was Army Staff Sgt. Justin Peck, who not only pulled his injured comrade, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, from a bombed out building; he also performed CPR and then maintained artificial respiration through two hours of surgery. Stacy is recovering, Raqqa is liberated and Peck has a bronze star with a V for valor.

Not everyone can be a hero. …

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