WASHINGTON, November 12 – In another sign of America’s glee at the election of Barack Obama to the White House, newborns all over the United States are being named after the president-elect.,
The maternity ward at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida — a key battleground state in which Obama soundly beat his Republican rival John McCain — proudly staked claim to bringing the first American baby Obama into the world.
"Sanjae Obama Fisher, baby boy, was born at 7:58 pm on election day," around three hours before Obama was declared the winner, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.
"Mom and Dad voted early in anticipation that their baby would arrive on election day, and Mom arrived at Memorial Regional Hospital at 6:30 am on Tuesday as the polls were opening," spokeswoman Marla Oxenhandler told AFP.
The couple had decided to name their baby in honor of Obama after their eight-year-old daughter said he — the Democratic candidate, not her baby brother — was inspirational, Oxenhandler said.
Around the United States, other maternity wards issued birth notices announcing newborns named Barack, Obama, Malia or Sasha after the president-elect’s daughters, or Michelle, his wife.
In Phoenix, Arizona — the state which McCain represents in the US Senate — Barack Jeilah was born at noon on November 5, the day after the historic election of the first African-American to the White House.
"I love Barack Obama," said baby Barack’s mother Decontee Williams, who came to the United States in 2003 as a refugee from Liberia’s civil war.
"He is a good man and he loves everyone, whether they are black or white. He is a good role model for my new son."
Naming babies after presidents used to be far more fashionable in the United States, but had fallen out of use.
"Americans used to name babies after new presidents pretty regularly," said Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard."
"If you look back at election years, you’ll see a little list of baby names like Coolidge or Harding," she said, referring to Calvin Coolidge, the 30th US president, from 1923-1929, and the man he succeeded in the White House, Warren Harding, who died of a heart attack.
But the tradition of naming a baby after a current president has fallen by the wayside, possibly because parents have become disillusioned about politics.
"Presidential names chosen today are presidents who have been long out of office," said Wattenberg.
Madison — as in fourth president James Madison (1809-1817) — is the second most popular girl’s name, while oft-given boy’s name Jackson is the surname of the seventh US president, Andrew "Stonewall" Jackson, although both are also common family names.
Reagan ranks among the top 200 girl names, while Lincoln is climbing up through the list of boy names, ranking 224th last year compared with 711th in 2000, according to the Social Security Administration.
Ronald Reagan was commander-in-chief from 1981 to 1989, and Abraham Lincoln held the office from 1861 to 1865, during which time the country was ravaged by civil war.
But the cynicism that has seen Americans consult their history books to choose presidential names for their offspring was swept aside with Obama’s candidacy.
"He inspired a lot of genuine enthusiasm and hope among his supporters…. I expect that you’ll see more hero-naming," Wattenberg said.
African-Americans were more likely to name their babies Barack or Obama, because his election to the White House was "an event of special significance to them, and African-Americans tend to name more creatively anyway," said Wattenberg.
Lakisha Brown of Baltimore, Maryland, named her daughter, born around an hour and a half after Obama was elected, Sasha Malia.
Brown watched Obama give his acceptance speech while she was in labor, and in the address he said to his daughters, and to millions around the world who were watching, "Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine."
"I heard him speak to his daughters and the love he showed — I said, ‘That’s it.’ And we decided to name our daughter after his girls," she said.