(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)
Dan Phan considers himself an all-American guy. He loves fried chicken, video games and professional wrestling.
Born in Vietnam 19 years ago, he tells people California is his birthplace. His one wish, he told friends, was to meet the president.
On Sunday, it will come true.
Phan, his parents, his younger brother and two neighbors are being flown from Tampa to Newark, N.J., today for a private meeting with Bill and Hillary Clinton at a Manhattan hotel on Sunday.
The trip was arranged by the Marty Lyons Foundation, a dream-maker for terminally ill children. Phan, a June graduate of Pinellas Park High School, has a slow-growing brain tumor.
"I'm ready for the trip," Phan said. "I'm going to shake his hand. I'll say, "You're a great president. I wish I could be like you.' "
It has been more than three years since Phan told the foundation he wanted to meet Clinton.
"After all that time, we figured it wasn't going to happen," said Mary Jane Bignotti, a neighbor who helped Phan make the wish.
David Smith, a foundation board member, said the organization had trouble arranging the meeting at first but kept at it.
"He could've wished for anything," Smith said. "For a kid from Vietnam to think first not of wanting a cruise or a vacation but of wanting to meet the president, I think that's fantastic."
Five people are accompanying Phan, who works at Target, on the trip: his parents, Bay and Dzung, his brother, David, and Bignotti and her husband, Frank. A limo will shuttle them to Tampa International Airport about 11 a.m. today for their first-class trip.
After a weekend of sightseeing in New York, the group will spend about 15 minutes with the Clintons on Sunday evening, Smith said.
On the eve of his trip, Phan's friends were pumping him full of questions for Clinton. What will he do for people with disabilities and terminal illnesses? What's it like being president? Did he inhale?
But Phan has no plans to talk politics. He just wants to tell Clinton he admires him.
"I see him in the news," Phan said. "I think he's pretty cool."