Premature Re-appellation

A majority of students at my daughter’s K-8 school want to rename the school after President-elect Barack Obama, an improvement over the admittedly awkward “Clark K-8 @ Binnsmead”. Katie thinks this is a great idea. I am not too sure.

Yes, I voted for the guy. And I hope he’ll live up to his promise, though I have several reservations even if he does, mostly grounded in worries about his hawkish attitude towards Afghanistan.

But that’s not relevant here. I demur because usually we name schools after Presidents have left office, not, say, before they are even sworn in. We also honor non-presidents, too, such as historic activists like Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez. Perhaps Obama’s ground-breaking win as an African-American candidate qualifies, he has already inspired millions of people, bringing many first-time voters into the process and running on a mostly positive message of transforming politics.

However, history isn’t over yet. Being the eternal ray of sunshine that I am, I asked my daughter, “What if in two years Obama’s presidency is bogged down in Afghanistan? Or there’s a big sex scandal?”

“A what scandal?!” she exclaimed.

Jenn walked away from the dinner table, saying, “Go ahead, Daddy. Explain that one.”

Fortunately Katie didn’t want an answer. She and her fellow students have already voiced their support of Obama through their choice of chocolate cupcakes over McCain’s vanilla, so they are convinced that changing the name of the school in favor of Obama would be a good move. “It will get lots of news stories!” Katie argued, thrilled that two local news stations have reported this possibility.

Jenn thinks a lot of deserving local talent will get short-shrift: Linus Pauling, Ken Kesey, John Reed, Raymond Carver…. Mostly white and male. But they are dead, which is actually a stipulation of the re-naming rules. Ursula K. LeGuin and Avel Gordly (Oregon’s first black female legislator) will have to wait for the Reaper to take his due before becoming eligible for such an honor.

I suggested Kwame Toure. Any takers?

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