February 1, 2009
Good morning, Barack Obama Elementary School!” That is what children attending the former Ludlum Elementary in Hempstead, New York have been hearing ever since the local school district board voted unanimously to change the name to honor the United States’ first black president.
Barack Obama took office barely 10 days ago, but already schools and streets are being renamed. In the Hempstead case they didn’t even wait until Inauguration Day, re-christening the school back in November — the first in the nation to do so.
For the students, it’s music to their ears, gushed school principal Jean Bligen.
They “want to keep this interest, this high belief that we can really make a difference, that we can change our community, that we can change our nation, that we can make the world a better place,” Bligen said.
Experts say this baptizing phenomenon is unique to an incoming American leader riding a wave of optimism at the beginning of his presidency.
“This is highly unusual,” said Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University professor of popular culture.
“Usually this thing doesn’t take place until the president is out of office and often until the president has actually died.”
But the “hope for some kind of utopia” during the Democratic Obama administration after eight years of Republican president George W. Bush has proven too powerful for some to wait, Thompson and others said.
Many American communities have rules forbidding the naming of streets or monuments after the living, explains Stuart Mack, director of Rutgers University’s Center for Government Services.