Rudolph Hines is a normal 7-year-old boy from Southeast Washington. But President Reagan, who adopted his school and chose him for a pen pal 15 months ago, treats him like a V.I.P.
At the president's invitation, Rudolph will attend a pre-inauguration luncheon at the White House tomorrow with the Reagans, Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Hope. Later, he will sit in the president's reviewing stand to watch the inaugural parade.
But, Rudolph, a second-grader, takes all this in stride, according to his mother and several of his classmates at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, at Sixth Street and Alabama Avenue SE.
"He's still just one of the guys in class and still one of the guys in the neighborhood," said his mother, Stephanie Lee, an assistant head nurse at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.
Rudolph, described as a shy, bright student who "almost" made the honor roll last year, aspires to be president himself one day, he said. But he'd settle for becoming a police officer or a chef. His favorite subject is math, his favorite sport is football and his hobbies include playing video games, "snowball fights, eating, reading and writing letters to President Reagan," whom he described as a "nice man."
Among their recent exchanges:
Dear President Reagan,
Congratulations on being elected president again. It must have been hard work, but I'm glad you made it. . . . I got my report card and I got nine Bs. . . . I'm going to get all As on my next report card. . . . I'm going to be in a play called 'Christmas Around the world.' " -- Rudolph Hines, Dec. 3, 1984
Congratulations on those nine B's and on your campaign to turn them into A's. . . . Now about that acting job -- take it from an ex-actor there are ways to help with your lines. . . . I'm betting on you, you'll do just fine."
"I've tried to make sure he doesn't get too excited about being the president's friend," said his mother. "He's spoiled enough by being my only son, and the only grandchild and only nephew in the family."
On Thursday night, she received a call from the White House inviting Rudolph and a guest to attend some of the inaugural ceremonies. She broke the news calmly to her son, asking him, "Do you think you want to go to the inaugural parade and go to eat lunch with the president? He said, 'Oh, okay.'
"The next moment, he was outside playing with a Transformer toy. So, you see, he's just a typical little boy."
The round-faced, stocky lad is so nonchalant that he often forgets to write the president his usual monthly letter on one of the school's word processors. "I just forget, sometimes," he said. Reagan has answered all of Rudolph's letters. And he and Mrs. Rea- gan had dinner with the boy, his mother and his father, Chett Hines, at their home in September.
Rudolph's school, formerly named Congress Heights Elementary, was the first adopted under Reagan's nationwide "Partnerships in Education" program, launched in October 1983. Under the adoption program, the White House and federal agencies send employes to schools to serve as teaching consultants and arrange trips, such as tours of Air Force One, the president's airplane.
The visiting officials talk to students about various occupations and take them on field trips to the White House, government buildings, military bases, museums and other sites.
Teachers at the school said the excitement of their interactions with Reagan, presidential aides and other government officials has left lasting impressions on Rudolph and his 600 schoolmates and has stimulated their interest in learning.
As the flagship schoolhouse in the Partnerships in Education adoption program, King school has had several visits from Reagan and several gifts, including a satellite dish that can be used to receive television signals.
The adoption of the school has given the students a chance to "experience things and be exposed to things that they never would have without the president's help," said William Dalton, principal of the school. The school is so popular now, Dalton said, that numerous parents have called to ask about getting their children transfered to King.
Students at King school said they now have a better understanding of President Reagan.
Marcella Gooding, 11, a fifth-grader at King, said, "President Reagan helps out the country and the world and he likes our school. He helps our school. He and his wife, they come to talk about drug abuse and things."
LaShanda Stroman, 10, also a fifth-grader, said she especially liked visiting the White House last year on a class trip.
"They have colorful rooms," said Stroman. "I didn't know they have an East Room. I never heard of an East Room."
For many of the students, residents of one of the District's poorest communities, the chance to meet airplane pilots, lawyers and administrators may prove valuable when they decide on their careers, Dalton said.
About Reagan's policies, Stephanie Lee said, "I don't agree with most people's politics, but there's some good in everyone. I don't see why my son can't have the president as a friend, and if he aspires to be president one day, I won't tell him he can't."
Rudolph said that if he gets elected president one day, "I would invite certain people to have lunch and dinner . . . and buy my mother a new house, a new car and limousine service." If he'd been old enough, he said, "I would've voted for President Reagan because he's my pen pal."