Since 1982, in a new tradition established by Ronald Reagan, presidents frequently ask guests to join the First Lady in the gallery during the annual State of the Union address. These individuals usually have performed an act of heroism, achieved an impressive milestone, or been affected by something that illustrates an important theme in the President's speech. At the appropriate time, the President acknowledges the guests seated adjacent to the First Lady and identifies their particular contribution. Presidential speechwriters refer to these guests as "Lenny Skutniks" in reference to the first guest highlighted by Reagan in 1982.

2012: Debbie Bosane (the longtime secretary for billionaire Warren Buffett)

2009: Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Captain of US Airways Flight 1549, which he successfully landed in the Hudson River)

2007: Dikembe Mutombo (NBA basketball star from Africa who earned U.S. citizenship and later built a hospital in his native Congo); Michael J. Fox (actor & Parkinson's activist)

2002: Hamid Karzai (Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority)

2000: Hank Aaron (former professional baseball player)

1999: Rosa Parks (Civil Rights pioneer); Sammy Sosa (professional baseball player, Chicago Cubs)

1990: Gov. Bill Clinton