Don't name public property after living people

With President Obama leaving office this week, there will undoubtedly be movements underway to name things after him. Airports have already been named after George H. W. Bush (Houston, in 1997) and Bill Clinton (Little Rock, in 2012). Presidents 43 and 44 will probably be honored in the same way. 45 will probably try to name one after himself.

Public property shouldn't be named for living people -- especially politicians. This applies in Little Rock and Houston, too. There should always be a cooling-off period between a person's time in the spotlight and the use of their name on anything owned by the public. Naming things after people creates incentives for the wrong behavior. If you're doing what's right for the long term, you'll sometimes rub people the wrong way in the short run. Anyone can say enough "right" things to get the kind of praise required to be popular in the short run. But ruin can be done if short-term popularity is the only incentive that counts.

We're still learning -- up to this very month -- about what a sleaze Richard Nixon was (it appears he let the Vietnam War drag on just so he could win an election). We should always give ourselves the benefit of distance and the lens of history before we go about naming things for people. Besides, what about naming things for real heroes instead of people who just managed to win elections?

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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