A Slow Start Didn't Stop Tony Williams

Anthony Williams nearly ended up in a home for retarded children because he didn't start talking until he was almost 4. He went on to graduate from Yale and Harvard, and became Washington's mayor. Next month he will be honored by the Lab School of Washington, which educates learning-disabled children, joining its list of previous "Outstanding Learning Disabled Achievers." Among them: entertainers Billy Bob Thornton, Vince Vaughn, Tom Cruise, Cher, James Earl Jones and Harry Belafonte, surgeon Ben Carson, lawyer David Boies, artist Robert Rauschenberg, jewelry designer David Yurman and sports heroes Bruce Jenner, Dan O'Brien and Greg Louganis.

"He had the guts to say yes, he'd do it," Lab School founder Sally Smith told us. "It does take courage to stand up and say, 'Yes, I struggled in my early years.' "

The mayor's mother and late father adopted him from foster care in Los Angeles. The boy had been abused and was "certified retarded," Virginia Williams recalled yesterday. "Our pediatrician recommended that we not adopt him. He made no sounds and had no reaction to anything. He was almost 4." But once he started talking several weeks after being adopted, "he started talking whole sentences."

In school he was unfocused and distracted. "The only thing that brought Anthony through was not our brilliance but our love," his mother said. "We just loved him and made him feel secure. We didn't criticize everything he did."

The mayor's office told us he was too busy yesterday to comment on the award, which he will pick up at the Lab School's 20th anniversary gala Nov. 15. But his mother had this to say: "He's accepting it because if someone knows that he can come from where he was and go to where he is now, there's a chance for others to do the same."

Harper's Bazaar, Fashioning A List of Women Presidents

* John Kerry? George Bush? So passe!

Harper's Bazaar has set its sights far down the political road, mulling over the question: When the time comes for a woman president, who might she be? The mag's readers picked Oprah Winfrey as the "clear winner" in an online poll. Eighteen actual politicians made the list, which was compiled by editors and readers.

Pundit Arianna Huffington, who admits "there's no magic to the number 18," supplied the commentary. She seems to favor Dianes and lawmakers from California on the Democratic side.

Besides political rock star Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), the Dem nominees include Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Rep. Diane Watson (Calif.), Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio), Hilda L. Solis (Calif.), Susan A. Davis (Calif.) and Karen McCarthy (Mo.).

The GOP nominees -- "I tried to be fair to the Republicans," Huffington assured us -- are national security adviser Condi Rice, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Reps. Mary Bono (Calif.), Anne M. Northup (Ky.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Deborah Pryce (Ohio) and Kay Granger (Tex.).

Granger, who's among those who posed for the fashion mag, tells us: "I believe high heels give world leaders and politicians fresh perspective!" (A presidential motto if ever we've heard one.)

Armitage Talks Bluntly. Big Stick to Follow?

* Bluntly but diplomatically speaking: Richard Armitage, our barrel-chested deputy secretary of state, had the following exchange Monday in an interview with Salameh Nematt, Washington bureau chief of the Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat:

"When is the major offensive on Fallujah?" Nematt asked.

"If I knew, why would I tell you?" Armitage replied.

Nematt: "Well, it looks like, you know -- "

Armitage: "They'll know it when it starts."


* Call him superstitious, but John Kerry is rarely seen these days without his lucky jacket on -- a golden Timberland barn jacket he bought late last fall. "As any Red Sox fan would know, when you're on a winning streak, you don't change a thing," campaign spokesman Michael Meehan told us yesterday. "Kerry wore the jacket barnstorming through wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and the primaries. The barn jacket is back for the last week of barnstorming across the country."

* Add Paul McCartney, British citizenship aside, to the list of celebs weighing in on the presidential contest. The queen's subject was in Silicon Valley last weekend headlining a benefit for the Bridge School, favorite cause of fellow rocker Neil Young. Interrupting his rollicking rendition of "Let It Be," Sir Paul looked up from the piano with a grin and yelled, "Let it be Kerry!" The crowd, reports special correspondent Rita Beamish, responded with a roar.

* Little electoral surprise here: 150 prekindergarteners to third-graders (that would be 31/2- to 9-year-olds) at Hearst Elementary in Northwest Washington proved that voting isn't just for old people. They held their own balloting yesterday and favored Kerry with 105 votes to Bush's 45. Then again, bear in mind that these same kids also voted that their principal, Barnarda Tally, should dress as SpongeBob SquarePants for a literacy parade.

* "Vote or Die" T-shirts and bazillions of appearances on cable news and MTV still aren't enough for P. Diddy and his nonprofit Citizen Change group. The hip-hop king started an auction on eBay on Monday offering a voting-age citizen the chance to accompany him to the polls. As of yesterday afternoon, the bidding had climbed to $2,000.

With Anne Schroeder