By Holly Hobbs
Fairfax County Times
Thursday, February 11, 2010; VA19
Impersonator Daniel G. Storck has portrayed President Abraham Lincoln in parades and schools for 16 years.
This year, however, on the 16th president's birthday Friday, the Lincoln look-alike will be the same age as his hero was when assassinated in 1865.
At 56, Storck not only looks much younger than the Great Emancipator but he could continue to play him for years, he said.
"At 56, Lincoln looked a lot older than I do at 56. Part of that is I don't have to fight a war, one of the bloodiest wars in U.S. history. I haven't had two children die or a wife who was, frankly, difficult to live with," said Storck, who has represented Mount Vernon on the Fairfax County School Board since 2004.
The stress of public service is something Storck can sympathize with this year. Fairfax schools are facing a budget shortfall of nearly $200 million, resulting in tough decisions for the 10-member School Board.
"Fighting for the neediest kids is one of the things that Mr. Storck does," board member Martina A. Hone (At Large) said during school budget discussions recently.
During that meeting, Storck, the board chairman, introduced five amendments to the proposed budget, asking for $10.3 million to fund programs facing cuts. They include summer school and the Extended Learning Program, a tutoring program.
"Dan and Abe are probably more alike than different," School Board member James L. Raney (At Large) said. "Both are gentle giants in their respective fields."
Storck, the father of three county school graduates, owns two health-care management companies. His children are the reason he ran for the School Board, he said, but Lincoln also plays a role in his decision-making.
"He's one of the better angels of my nature," he said. "I'm sure Lincoln has become a part of me in ways I don't even realize. He was there for the people. And I like to think of myself that way. I'd like to make a difference in people's lives in a way that is not starry-eyed. I'm not in this for some big program. I'm in it for practical results that impact people's lives."
Storck's first public appearance as Lincoln was in 1994, during the annual Presidents' Day parade in Old Town Alexandria.
"There's always been a Washington but no Lincoln" in the parade, he said. "So, I called the organizers and I asked if I could march as Lincoln. At first, they had me parade right in front of a Confederate marching group. . . . That didn't really work out."
Each year, on Lincoln's birthday, Storck visits schools in his Lincoln costume and top hat.
"My objective is to obviously introduce them to Lincoln," he said. "For the little kids, it's the iconic Lincoln, who freed the slaves . . . and the basic message of honesty and integrity."
When visiting high schools, Storck and students discuss the importance of Lincoln's policies and speeches, particularly the Gettysburg Address.
"Having someone [who] looks like Lincoln really helps people imagine that time," he said. "It's pretty typical of the [elementary school] boys to ask about the bullet hole. 'Where were you shot?' "
Younger students, he said, also want to know about life in the White House and Lincoln's children.
"They love the story about when Lincoln was a storekeeper," Storck said. "He overcharged a woman and when, at the end of the day, he realized he had more money than he should have, he sought her out to return it."
Another popular query from younger students is whether Storck's beard is real. Like Santa's, it has received its fair share of pulls.
"The hat and the beard are iconic Lincoln. If you took away the hat and the beard, it wouldn't be the same," he said. "Lincoln kept important papers under his hat. He didn't carry a briefcase or anything like that . . . so he would put them under his hat."
School Board member Elizabeth T. Bradsher (Springfield) said that when she first saw Storck, she thought: "That guy looks just like Lincoln. What's his deal?"
"The resemblance seems striking. When you see him, you do a double take," she said, adding that the similarities go beyond looks. "Growing up, you always hear that Abe Lincoln was a very pensive man. And Dan is like that, too. He really thinks about other people and the impacts on them. Dan really cares about those who do without."