A path to the presidency
CHRISTIANSBURG — With the 2012 presidential election fast approaching, some voters are likely still unsure about which candidate they will pick.
Meanwhile, Christiansburg High School student Andrew Bradshaw already has a pretty clear picture of the candidate he’ll vote for in 2036.
It’s the same person he sees every time he looks in the mirror.
Christiansburg’s senior class president has all but pinpointed 2036 as the year he will make a run at fulfilling his life’s goal of being elected commander in chief.
While some may consider it to be a lofty dream, for Bradshaw, it seems more like a well-thought-out career path.
Bradshaw said it was his freshman year of high school, right after the 2008 presidential election, when he first found himself entranced with the world of politics.
By his junior year, he’d been elected class president and had begun his trademark dressed-up attire, both of which helped birth his school-wide persona.
“When you say Andrew, what you think of is Mr. President,” said Christiansburg senior Savannah McBride. “The guy who wears a tie every day.”
Since the start of his junior year, Bradshaw said there hasn’t been a single day he’s shown up to school without at least a shirt and tie and, more often, he wears a full suit.
“I just wanted to be different and dress for the job I wanted, which is president of the United States,” Bradshaw said.
Though his dress and school title have become somewhat of his calling card, his passion for politics extends further than promoting his image around the school.
This fall, the 17-year-old spent the majority of his Saturday afternoons — usually after running with the school’s cross country team — canvassing neighborhoods and administering questionnaires for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
Once his running season ended, Bradshaw bumped his commitment up, spending almost every afternoon either canvassing or making calls for the campaign.
The Romney/Ryan door-to-door victory director Josh Materne estimated Bradshaw has knocked on more than 2,500 doors this fall and said the teen’s enthusiasm about the election, despite not yet turning 18 years old, has made him stand out.
“I think he’s just extremely motivated by the things he believes in,” Materne said. Even though he can’t vote he wants to do everything he can to get Governor Romney in there.”
Bradshaw admitted being a little intimidated at first by the thought of approaching strangers on such a sensitive topic as politics, but he has really enjoyed the experience.
“The neatest thing is meeting the people and seeing what they have to say because they’re the ones who elect people,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said working with Materne and fellow victory director Wade Foster had also allowed him to see what it takes to run a major campaign.
“It takes a lot of dedication. It’s not just handing out things and making a couple of phone calls,” he said.
Another benefit was seeing how laws were enforced when he attended the Christiansburg Police Department’s weeklong Teen Police Academy.
He was one of 12 students to attend the July academy, and Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson said he was impressed from the first day, when Bradshaw introduced himself and handed the police chief his senior class president business card.
Over the week, Sisson said he observed that Bradshaw was a student who excelled both academically and socially.
“He could associate with his fellow classmates, but there was an obvious difference with him,” Sisson said. “He’s 17 years old and has the unbelievable knack to look into the future and develop goals for himself.”
Some of those goals include attending Virginia Military Institute and eventually, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by joining the Air Force.
Then he would like to enter politics at the local level.
For now, Bradshaw is enjoying spending his time off the campaign trail chatting up his teachers and peers at the high school on a variety of political topics.
“I talk a lot of politics,” Bradshaw said. “When they challenge me on an issue, it makes me really have to think and take a stand.”
Christiansburg High School social studies teacher Gail Graham is one of the teachers Bradshaw said he most enjoys talking politics with. Graham said the young politician is well-known around the school for not only his knowledge of the subject, but also his clever delivery.
“The kids all speak with him about his viewpoints,” Graham said. “They love him.”
In her 39 years of teaching, Graham said she couldn’t remember seeing a student so self-motivated to stay current on political topics.
“He keeps up with it himself, and he has something to quote from the newspaper or news every day,” Graham said.
While staying informed of current issues helps Bradshaw keep his finger on the pulse of today’s political world, he said he often studies the acts of past leaders, as well, particularly his favorite president, Ronald Reagan.
“He fought the Cold War, he had a backbone and stood up for what he believed in, and he attributed a lot of his success to God,” Bradshaw said.
To many, Bradshaw may seem dead set on emulating his hero by making it to the Oval Office, but much like a characteristic he attributed to Reagan, Bradshaw said he is leaving the success of his plan to a higher power.
“In my opinion, it’s all in God’s hands,” Bradshaw said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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