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    School visit brings out the child in Gov. Bush

    En route to USF to sign a law on schools, he stops in for a little reading and a revealing interview.

    photo
    [Times photo: Ken Helle]
    Irena Vikic, 11, left, listens Thursday as Gov. Jeb Bush and Madison Ridout, 5, read Goodnight Moon at Pizzo Elementary in Tampa.

    By LOGAN D. MABE, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published May 17, 2002


    TAMPA -- Hundreds gathered at the University of South Florida on Thursday morning to watch Gov. Jeb Bush sign a law rewriting the way schools are governed.

    But first, he had to convince a little girl that she knew how to read.

    "What's that say?" he asked Madison Ridout, a prekindergarten student at Pizzo Elementary School, pointing to a school T-shirt he had just been given by students.

    "I don't know," Madison said. "I can't read."

    "Oh, I know you can read," Bush said confidently. "You get me a book and I'll show you you can."

    While the big news was to come later in the day, Bush was the big news at Pizzo.

    Ambling into the school's TV studio, WPZO, Bush greeted his pint-sized interrogators.

    "So you guys do a show every morning? What was the show about this morning?" he asked.

    "You," said video camera operator Zachary Nedwick.

    The kids asked good questions.

    Did you live in the White House when your father was president? "No," Bush said, "but I visited a lot."

    Growing up in Texas, did he live on a ranch? "No, I was an urban cowboy."

    What was your favorite cartoon? "I think the Jetsons. I call Lt. Gov. (Frank) Brogan Elroy. Elroy the space boy."

    His favorite part about being governor? "Hanging out with kids."

    Hardest part? "Dealing with the press." "I guess the hardest part for me personally is signing death warrants," Bush said, explaining that he supports the death penalty but the duty is difficult "when you believe in the sanctity of life."

    Favorite book when he was a child? "Babar and Goodnight Moon."

    Does he have pets? "Yes, Sugar the cat. Marvin the dog. And C.C. Jr. the cat. Marvin is named after my brother."

    After the interview, Bush sat down with Madison and a copy of Goodnight Moon.

    "Goodnight noises . . ." Bush read.

    "Everywhere," Madison said, finishing the book.

    -- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at (813) 269-5304 or at mabe@sptimes.com.

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