City Desk

How Soon Is Too Soon?

The Washington Post just posted an article announcing that an elementary school in Upper Marlboro, MD might be named after Barack Obama, if the proposal is accepted at a vote tomorrow night.  The article goes on to mention that schools named after sitting presidents are not uncommon in this country, citing the examples of George W. Bush Elementary, opened in 2003 in California, and Richard Nixon Elementary, which welcomed Iowa students in 1970.  Leaving aside the fact that these other schools were named after possibly the two worst presidents in history, isn't it a little soon for schools to be named after Obama?  He was only inaugurated 155 days ago, while the other presidents had been in office for at least a year before they got a school named after them.

We do need to find more names for public buildings, especially in this city.  It gets confusing when you have to differentiate between which Reagan building to meet someone at, or use first names when figuring out which Kennedy goes with which arena/school/office.  But Obama's legacy is yet to be determined.  He's the first black president, which of course gives him precedence, but maybe the citizens should hold off for a few months.  Just to save the students from any possible embarrassment.

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  • Q

    Wow Caroline, without revoking the RACE card, your article seems very presumptuous. Had this been a Rec Center, Basketball Court, or Charter School, I don't think you'd even write this article. However, because it is a public school in a predominately African-American school system, then there is pause. I'm not saying that your intent was racist, but think about how others may interpret your article.

    From your own accounts George W. Bush Elementary was opened in 2003 -- not even complete first term for Dubya. Let me remind you that is AFTER the declaration of War on Iraq, September 11th, etc. Not to be outdone, when he visited the school in 2006 there were more scandals raising his presidency. To add more insult, look at the comments from some of the parents about the school --

    Still, we are a country that always honors past presidents, politicians, etc. whether good or bad, dead of alive. Naming of all things, streets, bridges, buildings, stadiums, and libraries after them. Supposedly, the name recognition is supposed to represent the person's characteristics upon the object being bestowed upon. Which as you realize the irony in Washington National Airport being named after a president who FIRED air traffic controllers.

    Whether Upper Marlboro kids get their wish or not, there have been a few other schools that have already filed suit. No we don't follow the USPS stamp rules that says the person has to be dead or go through some sainthood cannonization. All it takes is a group of supported folk to petition to change a name, and a legislature to support it.

    If the school system or parents aren't knocking it, why should we?

  • KCinDC

    Naming things after politicians who are still in office may be common, but that doesn't make it any less troubling. And when it's the president, whether that's Nixon, Bush, or Obama, it's way over the line as far as I'm concerned. This isn't Turkmenistan or North Korea.

    I seriously doubt there are *no* parents or members of the school system knocking it, Q.

  • Q

    "Turkmenistan or North Korea" LOL! So, Chairman Mao Tse Tung school is permissable huh? :) I understand KCinDC, and actually agree to some point. I honestly feel that a person's legacy is what he or she does for humanity, not necessarily something memorialized a structure...unless that person actually built that structure or had a hand in building it. (See Nannie Helen Burroughs school for a local example.) My issue with all these naming rights is it can be construed as a modern form of idolotry. Not only that, but when negative things happen at these "structures" or if something controversial is discovered about the honoree, it has a way of affecting the legacy of the person and the structure. Remember the controversy about Oprah Winfrey's school.

    True, there will always be opposition on the sidelines, but in the case of the NY school bearing Obama's name, it was 100% accepted (based on news reports).

  • Richard Layman

    Also the examples of places being named for big donors and then the donors become anathema for various reasons (criminal behavior or not being good for the dough).

    I think you raise good points.

  • Dave

    The question you pose in your headline is irrelevant.

    We shouldn't be asking how soon is too soon. We should be asking, as so many great, pompadoured thinkers have asked...

    How Soon Is Now?

    It also wouldn't hurt to ask, What Difference Does It Make? and Is It Really So Strange?

    Sorry, I'll stop now. This Joke Isn't Funny Anymore.