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Clarence 6-year-old serves notice at White House: He'll be the first deaf president

‘He knows he belongs’ in White House, says his mother as they visit nation’s capital

By Phillip Lucas - NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU


Jerry Zremski/Buffalo News
Declan Hurley, 6, of Clarence poses outside the grounds of the White House, where he one day wants to be in residence — as the nation’s first deaf president who is also a physician.

WASHINGTON — At the ripe age of 6, Declan Hurley of Clarence knows exactly what he wants out of life: to be the first deaf president of the United States.

Standing in front of the Treasury Building after touring his hoped-for future home Thursday, Declan said he wants to be president because he’s smart and wants to help people.

“And I want to make money,” he added, proving that he may some day be one of those truth-telling candidates.

Declan toured the White House with his parents, completing a dream that began when he wrote to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N. Y., to ask for tickets.

“I’m sorry you’re not the first woman president,” Declan wrote.

And then he quickly asked for the senator’s vote when he runs for president someday.

Clinton called Declan after getting the letter, pledging her support, Declan’s parents, Peter and Jennifer Hurley, said.

And before long the family got the White House tour tickets that Declan had been craving.

The family spent about a half-hour on that tour Thursday, admiring the paintings and meandering through public spaces that were nearly deserted.

And although it is at least 29 years too soon for Declan to be measuring for drapes in the Oval Office, he’s not too young to dream. And if his dream comes true, he would be a landmark president.

When he was only a year old, Declan underwent surgery to implant a cochlear hearing device at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. The implant allows Declan to hear and speak normally, an ability he uses to recite the presidents of the United States in order of the years they served in office.

Fresh out of kindergarten, he doesn’t stumble over a single name.

Adding “Hurley” to that list is just one of Declan’s dreams.

He’s already planning an undergraduate career at Notre Dame before getting his medical degree at Johns Hopkins — meaning he might just be the first physician president, too.

“It’s funny that you want to be the president; I wanted to be mayor of Buffalo,” said Declan’s father, director of sales at Stampede, which sells home theater products.

Paul Hurley, Declan’s grandfather, is currently president of Trocaire College in Buffalo. And Declan’s parents said their son, on his way to first grade at Harris Hill Elementary School, is set to outdo both his father and grandfather someday.

“He knows he belongs here,” Jennifer Hurley said after the family toured the White House.

She told her son he could go wherever he wanted for vacation this summer. Declan passed up the colorful childhood tradition of Disney World for the museums and history offered in Washington.

“My son is 6 going on 70,“ Jennifer said, adding that all of his friends at school come to him for advice.

Maybe that’s because Declan knows much more than just who the presidents were and when they served.

Declan said his favorite president is Abraham Lincoln “because he helped the deaf.” Lincoln chartered Washington’s Gallaudet University — a world leader in education for the deaf — in 1864.

What’s more, Declan is already practiced in persuasion.

During New York’s presidential primary, Declan brought dinner to a screeching halt when he asked his mother if she had voted yet. She said no.

“We got up from dinner, we ran over, and we voted,” she said. “He went in with me and pulled all the levers to vote.”

If he’s allowed to, Declan says he will help his mother vote again in November’s general election.

When Jennifer asked her son whom he would vote for this time, he said, without hesitation: “Barack Obama. He’s gonna win.”

And when that happens, “I’ll write him a letter,” Declan said.

However, Declan said he wouldn’t be upset if Sen. John McCain is elected president.

“That’s the fun thing about being in America, right? You get to pick who you want,” Peter told his son.

“You know, it would be nice if you could do eenie, meenie, miney, moe,” Declan said in complete, almost presidential, seriousness.

Published Thursday, August 28, 2008 2:47 PM by jcole
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