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The Smart Money Is on This Young Genius : Michael Kearney, 10, is the world's youngest college graduate and a cultural hero in Japan but finds a less enthusiastic response in the U.S.

January 15, 1995|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | Richard Kahlenberg contributes regularly to The Times

A few weeks ago he was in Santa Barbara, serving as junior "mayor for a day" because on a national TV show he had bested the real mayor, Hal Conklin, in the video game SimCity. After traipsing through the daily rounds--facilities inspections, press conferences, a City Council meeting--he concluded, "The hardest part was listening to all those annoying citizens." The best part was issuing proclamations. He issued a Letter of Recognition to Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft--and a grown-up whom Michael resembles in his occasional impatience with ordinary folk.

The mayor, 10, thanked Gates for "opening up the world of computers to youth and the world--allowing people to get into their daily lives and solve their problems and to get out of their daily lives through entertaining games."

The Kearneys are in the process of moving from the Universal City area to Burbank, with side trips to Japan, as Michael moves toward whatever adult life has in store. Game show host? "A brilliant classroom teacher is a kind of game show host," Michael's father says. Whatever this youngster does, because of his brains and his parents, he'll do it well.

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