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Bay Shore boys’ love of presidents turns them into ‘Ellen’ correspondents
When Rainer Pasca was 2 years old, he picked out a placemat featuring the presidents of the United States while shopping with his parents, and within an hour -- before the family even returned home from running errands -- he had it memorized.
He had an impressive memory, that much was clear. But as it turned out, the toddler also had an insatiable curiosity for U.S. presidents, said his father, Matt Pasca, an English teacher at Bay Shore High School.
“We thought he would get tired of it, but he just kept learning more,” he said, adding that the family owns every presidential documentary, book, placemat, card, material “you could think of.”
Pasca and his wife, Terri Muuss, communication coordinator for the Bay Shore School District, said by the time he was 3, Rainer also knew every vice president and first lady. And just when his interest did start to wane, it was picked up by his younger brother, Atticus Muuss.
“Rainer taught everything he knew to Atticus,” Pasca said. “And then that’s all they did 24/7 for a very long time.
“I have to say that after six straight hours of kids watching presidential documentaries and hearing for the 12th time about William Henry Harrison’s two-hour inaugural speech,” Pasca said, “we start to wonder how this all happened and what kind of surreal universe we walked into.”
But even so, the family never could have imagined the year they’ve had. After Muuss starting posting videos of their boys -- Rainer is now 6 and Atticus is 4 -- on YouTube at their request, the family was contacted by producers at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” who interviewed the boys and then invited them to the show to show off their talent.
“Ellen saw videos of us talking about the presidents and she was so, so impressed that she put us on her show,” Rainer said. “I was so excited I mean I was like, I’m going on TV, wow, that’s exciting, I mean I couldn’t help it.”
Rainer and Atticus -- dressed in what would become their matching “Ellen outfits,” khaki-colored slacks, a blue shirt and blue-and-yellow tie -- appeared on an episode in May to regale DeGeneres with their knowledge and talk current events.
“I really like you,” she told Rainer, after he expressed support for the re-election of Barack Obama because of his stance on gay marriage.
They also got to talk about their favorite presidents. Rainer’s is John F. Kennedy “because he gave people hope,” and Atticus’ is Martin Van Buren, because he likes his sideburns.
The visit was so successful -- DeGeneres held up photos of past presidents, and the boys named them and recited everything they knew about each -- their skills were called on by the show again in August, but this time, show producers sent them to the Republican National Convention as political correspondents, which was “so, so exciting,” Atticus said.
They met and interviewed Anderson Cooper (who was “so, so nice,” Rainer said), Soledad O’Brien, Jon Voight, Zach Braff, and a host of other politicians and celebrities.
The most exciting of all, the boys said, was meeting Michelle Obama, which they found out about only a few hours before they interviewed her.
Pasca said the boys take the whole experience in stride.
“Kids aren’t as blown away by these experiences as adults tend to think they will be,” he said. “I think a lot of kids think anything is possible: Why not meet Michelle Obama? Why not be at the conventions? Why not be on TV? I think what is most important to my wife and I is that they are just good kids.”
Rainer and Atticus are done with TV for the moment but continuing on in their personal studies (they can also identify nearly every country’s national flag) and making YouTube videos. Most recently, they helped explain the Electoral College in a video, and at home on Nov. 6, they tracked the 2012 election results until they fell asleep around 10 p.m.
Looking toward the future, Rainer said he hopes to be president one day with his brother as his vice president. One day in 2040, to be exact, when Rainer will be 35.
“To be the youngest president ever of the United States,” Rainer said. “To beat John F. Kennedy.”
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