By Curt Yeomans
Brandon Bedford has a keen interest in military history, and how U.S. presidents have led the nation through periods of war, but there are two presidents who stand out in his mind -- Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The sixth-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School said Lincoln stands out as his favorite president of all time because of his Gettysburg Address and for signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Eisenhower stands out to Bedford for overseeing the end of the Korean War as president, as well as leading allied forces as a general in World War II.
Bedford, 11, studied the leadership styles of the former presidents earlier this month during a week-long leadership forum, hosted in Washington D.C., by the People to People Student Ambassador program.
"Leadership is how you present yourself and whether people can trust you to do important things," said Bedford.
Bedford was nominated last year by a counselor at Lee Street Elementary School, where he was a student at the time. The youth spent the week of Sept. 8-14 participating in the leadership forum.
People to People officials took Bedford and other participants to several presidential and war memorials around Washington D.C.; the battlefield in Gettysburg, Penn.; Eisenhower's farmhouse and museum in Gettysburg; George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, and Colonial Williamsburg in southeast Virginia.
"My favorite part was going to Gettysburg, because I learned a lot of stuff about the Civil War that I didn't know before," said Bedford.
The participants also engaged in several leadership activities, including one in which youngsters had to stand up, recite a form of leadership and demonstrate it for the other youths. Bedford said he highlighted five important qualities of good leadership during this exercise, including: trustworthiness; honesty; responsibility; respect, and fairness.
"[Good leadership means] if there is a job to be done, you can be trusted to do it," Bedford said. "For example, if a teacher needs to have a note taken to another teacher, they might trust you to take it to the other teacher."
Charmine Johnson, the principal at M.D. Roberts, said teaching leadership skills to students, like Bedford, is important because it helps shape what kind of people they will grow up to become.
She said the school is starting a student leadership team this year, so more students can learn what it takes to be a leader among their peers.
"It's very important because what it boils down to is, they are the leaders of the future," Johnson said. "They serve as role models for their peers. Other students will hopefully emulate what they are seeing them do."