Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Name Game

Even before he's sworn in, Barack Obama is already having things named after him. Such as an elementary school in New York. And, possibly, the tallest peak in Antigua.

Eugene Volokh thinks this is all pre-mature, and urges that we wait to see whether Obama actually makes for a great president or not. Wouldn't it be embarrassing to have a "Richard M. Nixon" elementary school?

Eh. I think that, unless you're an absolute abject failure and disgrace upon the nation, merely becoming President is sufficient to have some smaller-scale landmarks named after you. It's not a tough bar to leap: Warren Harding has a high school. Since I don't think we should assume that, like Nixon, Obama will be run out of office for rampant abuses of power, I'm not too cut up about him getting an elementary school named after him.

And the mountain in Antigua? Amazingly, that story touches more than anything else. Why would Antigua name its highest mountain after an American President? The answer lies in the hold America has, even over foreign countries -- particularly smaller and poorer ones. America still represents a beacon to them. The election of Barack Obama, after eight years of George W. Bush, is a sign that we as a people have not abandoned our pre-eminent position in the world, that we still are committed to securing opportunities and inclusion for all.

It may just be symbolism. But it's symbolism that matters. And as Americans, we should take heed that the eyes of the world watch our every move. We have a lot to live up to.


Julia said...

Actually, it seems there was a Richard Nixon Elementary School in CA until it was demolished in 1988... too embarrassed to just change the name??

Greg said...

Yorba linda Calif. It was named that while he was still in office. It was right next to the small house he was unfortunatly born in.