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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 7, 2010

Take time on a namesake

The sentiment may be right, but the timing and the sense of proportion are off.

In recent weeks there's been a flurry of proposals for ways to honor the Hawai'i native son who became the first African-American U.S. president. Who can blame us for seeking a suitable namesake? Isle folks are invariably proud of their own, and Barack Obama deserves the honor.

There's no reason to rush such a decision, however, or to make this a cause of upheaval.

Renaming an established park or school would certainly set off mixed emotions. Schools such as McKinley High and Noelani Elementary have been suggested as candidates to bear the Obama name. But alumni surely would be tough to win over. And it might not be much of an compliment to Obama if people fond of Magic Island (or 'Äina Moana Park) would cling stubbornly to that name instead. The park's been around for decades, and old habits die hard.

Finally, this state doesn't need another holiday on its crowded calendar. A more measured, less disruptive option: Find a new place — a yet-to-be-built school, or other public institution — to be named for the president. The practice in recent decades has been to give Hawaiian names, generally those deriving from the original place names, to parks and natural landmarks. That practice should continue.

In any case, Obama will be in the White House, at minimum, for three more years. There's ample time during his administration, or beyond, to discuss and settle on a tribute. Meanwhile, there are many, much bigger problems to resolve, nationally and at home.