Barack: Name of the Future
Our newly-elected President, Barack Obama, has famously called himself “a skinny black kid with a funny name.” He’s the first one to admit how difficult it’s been living with such an unusual moniker. In a video aired during the Democratic National Convention, he said Barry Obama might have been okay, or Barack Smith, but being named Barack Obama made everything doubly difficult. And at the Alfred E. Smith roast, he humorously declared that Barack was Swahili for “That one” and that Steve and not Hussein was his real middle name.
But Barack Obama has obviously triumphed over any challenges presented by his name, symbolic of an American future in which diversity is not only tolerated but celebrated. Many parents have already embraced a baby-naming ethic that champions ethnic names, distinctive names, and genuine if odd family choices. One pro-Obama group even launched a campaign in defense of unusual names.
Barack Obama was named for his African father. Called Barry as a child and young adult, he later reverted to the full, authentic, form of his name. Barack, which means blessing in both Swahili and Arabic, is, when spelled Barak, an Old Testament name meaning lightning–fitting in view of the numbers of parents worldwide who have instantly started using it as a namesake for their babies.
Interestingly, Obama’s older daughter is named Malia, a Hawaiian name that celebrates that part of his heritage. Under President Obama’s lead, the next four years should prove to be livelier and more forward-thinking in terms of baby names along with everything else.
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on November 5th, 2008 at 5:35 pm
I don’t think that the fact that Barack Obama has an unusual name makes it certain that the next four years will be “livelier.” While names are important they will never increase the vitality of the country, and if they did we would all be in trouble.
on November 5th, 2008 at 6:00 pm
The author stated that the next four years would be livelier and more forward-thinking under Obama’s lead, not due to his unusual name. Why would “we all be in trouble” if names increased the vitality of our country??
on November 5th, 2008 at 10:04 pm
Because actions and words and PEOPLE, not simply names or their meanings, increase vitality.
on November 5th, 2008 at 11:15 pm
Actually, I am inspired and sometimes revitalized by names and their meanings; I’m just not able to connect that with leading the country into trouble.
on November 9th, 2008 at 8:33 pm
What I mean to state is that PEOPLE vitalize names, not the other way around. I was just conjecturing that if we were influenced and revitalized by names only as a people, instead of people’s messages, THEN we would be a very superficial society; this is what I thought would get us into trouble.
I too am inspired by names, but when turning to political or otherwise leaders I look soley to their policies and beliefs, not their names.
on November 19th, 2008 at 9:27 am
Well, yeah, of course. But people *are* influenced by names, to varying degrees. Multiple studies have shown that people usually have preconceived notions associated w/ names, and they often project those feelings on to the individual. Some of the associations can be tough to overcome. I have no idea what John McCain’s MN is, but I lost track of how many times I heard his supporters throw the name Hussein around.
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