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Mayor briefly promoted to president during civics lesson

Mayor Rahm Emanuel teaching Civics students Frederick FunstElementary School Thursday May 9 2013.  |  John H. White~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, teaching Civics to students at Frederick Funston Elementary School, Thursday, May 9, 2013. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 11, 2013 6:28AM

Nerves got the better of 12-year-old Sahian Sotelo Thursday morning, when she addressed the man sitting on a stool in her classroom as “Mr. President.”

“Mayor,” the city’s top executive said, quickly correcting Sotelo.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel left before sixth-graders in Logan Square’s Funston Elementary School got to ask about a possible presidential run. But Emanuel offered some interesting insights into life in the White House, the mayor’s office, his reading habits and what he keeps on his desk — among other things.

Since becoming mayor, Emanuel has done half a dozen question-and-answer “civic lessons” at different schools across the city.

He told students he went to work as chief of staff for President Barack Obama because, “I grew up in a home where, if the President of the United States says I want you to do something, you kind of have two answers: ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes, sir.’”

Emanuel said being chief of staff is akin to “drinking from a fire hydrant.”

“It comes at you all the time,” he said.

He described the difference between Obama’s immaculate, clutter-free desk in the Oval Office and former President Bill Clinton’s “creative chaos” arrangement. Emanuel worked in the Clinton White House for six years in the 1990s, rising to senior adviser for policy and strategy.

Emanuel grinned broadly when Elias Lagunas asked him what he keeps on his desk. The mayor said no one has ever asked him that question.

“So you get an A,” the mayor told Lagunas. For the record, Emanuel’s desk items include: three folders, a notebook that Obama gave him and photographs of his family. And beneath the glass, a note from each of his three children, “to remind me there is more to life.”

Emanuel said he loves to read and is currently making his way through the conclusion of Rick Atkinson’s World War II Liberation Trilogy, “The Guns at Last Light.”

On the whole, the mayor impressed thestudents, including Sotelo, who hasn’t ruled out running for mayor one day.

“It would probably be fun to help other people who don’t have anything and then help them have a good life,” she said.

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