In Search Of The Average American

Bob Burns may be one of the most sought after men in the world. Pitchmen want to pitch him. Pollsters want to poll him.

CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports it's not because of who he is, but because of who he isn't.

"Everyone dreams about being a rock star, or maybe an astronaut, you know," Burns says.

But Burns is a 53-year-old building maintenance supervisor in Windham, Conn. In fact, according to one study of all 280 million people in the U.S., he is the one perfectly average American.

"Average I am and average I will be," he says. "And I'm happy with that."

Burns was discovered and anointed "The Average American" by author Kevin O'Keefe, a former marketing executive in New York City, who made it his mission to find "The Average American," and then wrote a book about his search.

"I used to ignore people that I considered to be average," O'Keefe says.

O'Keefe studied reams of Census Data, interviewed people from Maine to Hawaii and developed 140 characteristics that everyday Americans told him defined up the average American.

"Most Americans are happy most or all of the time," he says. "Most Americans go to church at lease once a month. Most Americans have fired a gun at least once in their life. Most Americans live within 20 minutes of a Wal-Mart and three miles of a McDonald's."

It took him more than two years, but O'Keefe narrowed his search down to this town, this house and this man.

Burns says he doesn't regret not being a corporation president.

"Because you know why?" Burns asks. "I know my limitations."

All O'Keefe's data led him right next door to the town he grew up in, to a man he already knew. Bob Burns was custodian in O'Keefe's high school.

O'Keefe ended his search in his own backyard and learned lessons about life that hit close to home.

"It's all about family it's all about community and that may sound cliché, but I'm getting it for the first time," he says.

It's a message often lost in a world obsessed with celebrity.

And Bob Burns now knows while he is average, he's anything but ordinary.

"It's a great feeling," Burns says. "It's great to be average, believe me."
  • Gina Pace

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