President-Elect Obama Inspires Naming Craze

In his 2004 keynote address at the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama called himself a "skinny kid with a funny name." Now, only four years later, that funny name is appearing on public buildings and birth certificates.

A month before he becomes president, Obama already has inspired a national naming craze and a holiday in one Alabama county. What can he possibly do for an encore?

George H. W. Bush was CIA director, vice president and president of the United States before the George Bush Intercontinental Airport got its name. And New York's Triborough Bridge was renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge only recently -- 40 years after Kennedy's death.

It's not unusual for senior lawmakers in Congress to have buildings named after them back home, on account of the money they bring back to their districts. But Obama, who will not assume the presidency until Jan. 20, is the first living politician to have a holiday declared in his name. Two weeks ago, Perry County in Alabama approved a paid holiday, on which public employees will celebrate the historic nature of his victory as the first African-American president.

"In America, we celebrate historic events with holidays," said Commissioner Albert Turner Jr., who was the sponsor of the resolution passed in a 4-1 vote by the Perry County Commission.

"Never again will this event occur in which a person of African-American descent will be the first African-American to assume the office," Turner told

Obama also has inspired the Ludlum Elementary School in Hempstead, N.Y., to change its name to Barack Obama Elementary School. School officials say the idea originated with the school's 466 students, the majority of whom are black or Hispanic.

Obama's victory was a huge source of pride for many of them, principal Jean Bligen said in an interview with the Associated Press. Some of the children read essays about Obama at the school board meeting held to decide on the name change. "That really was effective," Bligen told the Associated Press.

Another school, in Portland, Ore., also is changing its name to Obama. And the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda said he has considered changing the name of its highest mountain -- Boggy Peak -- to Mount Obama.

A couple in Florida was the first to give the president-elect's name to their child -- Sanjae Obama Fisher -- but before Obama had won the presidency.

In Alabama, the county-wide holiday -- known as "The Barack Obama Day" -- will be observed on the second Monday in November and will require that all county offices -- as well as public schools -- be closed.

Perry County, one of the poorest in a state that went to John McCain in last month's presidential election, is predominantly African-American. Approximately 12,000 people live in the county, 40 of whom are county workers. Seventy-two percent of its voters chose Obama.

American flags will be flown on The Barack Obama Day, Turner said, and the Perry County Civic League will hold a "unity breakfast" to bring together people of "all races and nationalities."

In response to criticism that Obama has not assumed office yet and hasn't had a chance to follow through on any campaign promises, Turner said, "He has done something. He won the election. Regardless of how his presidency goes, we're not celebrating his presidency. We're celebrating the event that put him there."

"I don't care what he does. He can't do worse than what Bush has done," Turner said. He added: "I'm hoping his administration won't let America down."

But Perry County commissioner Brett Harrison voted against the resolution, saying it would have detrimental economic consequences for one of the poorest counties, with a $2.2 million annual payroll.

"Being recognized for a great accomplishment is one thing -- it's something we do all over the United States -- but I don't know of any other county that would go to the extreme of using general funds to pay for such recognition," Harrison told

"From a financial standpoint, I did not think it was a wise move," he added, though he said he agreed with the idea of paying tribute to Obama's historic victory.

The Alabama Republican Party's Communications Director Philip Bryan also expressed concerns over using taxpayer dollars to fund a county-wide holiday.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with honoring what happened on Nov. 4 and the historic nature of Obama's candidacy, especially given the southern heritage that we have and the civil rights struggle. I think it's important to recognize that history was made," Bryan said.

"But there are plenty of ways you can do without creating a county holiday funded by taxpayers," he said, adding that a holiday named for a living individual was "a little weird."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.