07/12/2012 07:55 am ET Updated Sep 11, 2012

The "Veepstakes" -- Highlights and Lowlights of a Great American Tradition

Summer is a time of many American traditions, from family vacations to the Fourth of July. But there are two big events that we add to that list every four years: the Summer Olympics and the time-honored tradition of finding out who our presidential candidates have selected as their choice for a vice president -- otherwise known as the "Veepstakes."

I have always been fascinated by this particularly American phenomenon. It is, by turns, both a highly secretive and very public ritual. And it has produced some great future leaders of the country as well as some memorable train-wrecks.

The stakes are always high. For the would-be presidential nominee, it is the first major decision that the public can weigh to assess the judgment of the person who may become the leader of the free world. And for the Veepstakes contenders themselves -- whether they are ultimately selected or not -- it is a window into how they handle the scrutiny and pressure of being "under consideration," which can have huge implications for their future national political aspirations. As for the candidates' advisors, their participation and advice in the selection process may make all the difference between landing in an office with a view of the Rose Garden and having the future president's ear, or being relegated to a cubicle in the basement.

With the process currently underway for choosing who will be on the Romney ticket, I thought it would be great to take a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of this venerable American custom. I remember well a few of those moments -- the excitement I felt about Walter Mondale's groundbreaking selection of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984; the energy generated by Bill Clinton's selection of Al Gore in 1992, creating a team of "Young Guns," as Newsweek magazine branded them on its cover. I also remember that chaotic scene in New Orleans harbor, as George Bush announced his selection of a young and unprepared Dan Quayle as his second-in-command.

I think you'll enjoy the slideshow below. These are some of my favorite Veepstakes moments, so I hope you'll let me know if I missed any of yours. Every election season brings with it countless big and small moments that determine who will win the race for the White House in 2012 -- but surely the Veepstakes ranks at the top as a major event to watch.