D.C. Park Could Be Renamed for Obama

Graham reintroduces renaming bill


Things come quickly to Barack Obama.

He was elected president less than four years into his U.S. Senate tenure, his first federal office. He became the fifth-youngest president, inaugurated at age 47. He had been president for less than nine months when it was announced that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

There are already several schools named after him, including Barack Obama Elementary School in Upper Marlboro, Md. There are two streets named after him in Florida. On Obama’s birthday in 2009, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda even renamed Boggy Peak “Mount Obama.”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that in the city where Obama now resides, where he received 93 percent of the vote in 2008, a city councilmember wants to rename a recently renovated park “Barack Hussein Obama Park.”

In the summer of 2009, Ward 1’s Jim Graham first proposed renaming the blandly named “14th and Girard Street Park” after the president. The idea never went anywhere, with even Obama fans saying it was much too soon. Plus, there was the little matter of the D.C. Code’s ban on naming any “public space in the District…in honor of any living person.”

But Graham has now reintroduced the measure, days shy of the second anniversary of Obama’s inauguration. While the D.C. Council is dominated by Democrats, it remains unclear if Graham can get six of his colleagues to join him on the idea.

However, the real question is not whether it is too soon for a D.C. park to be named after Obama. The question is whether Obama deserves it.

As WTOP’s Mark Plotkin wrote in the Washington Post a few months ago, “this president has shown no gratitude to the D.C. residents who overwhelmingly voted for him,” and “goes out of his way to ignore us.” Obama rejects even symbolic support of D.C.’s rights and aspirations, such as putting the “Taxation Without Representation” license plate back on the presidential limo. It was good enough for Bill Clinton, but not for Obama.

Indeed, veteran D.C. voting rights activists are upset with the president. Last month, D.C. shadow representative Mike Panetta, a Democrat, told me that Obama “needs to lose the D.C. primary” in 2012.

Before the renaming legislation gets any sort of serious consideration, Graham and his colleagues should insist on a public expression of support for D.C. voting rights from the president.

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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