ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
There has been some concern about Barak Obama's Muslim name. I am a white, Christian woman whose name is quite common in Muslim cultures, but not quite so common in North America. Should we consider changing our names?
What is in a name?
I don't think you need to worry about changing your name, unless your full name is something like Sharia T. Hamas-Killjoy, and the "T" stands for "Talibanna."
I assume you are referring to your given name rather than your family name, so that your reference to "we" is to yourself and the President. Regarding President Obama, the only clearly Muslim aspect to his name would be his middle name "Hussein." Otherwise Barak is an Israeli family name dating to the Old Testament. I may be an ignoramus and I don't have to look it up, but I have associated Obama with Kenyan names more than Islamic names per se.
I do know that at least one President did change his name. Gerald Ford of Michigan Football fame, the only person to reach the office without being elected on any ticket, was born in Omaha Nebraska with some name I don't have time look up, but it definitely needed changing, because it was along the lines of "Clancy Percival Twinkleshire."
Personally I think Barak Obama is a great name for an American President. his first name is Biblical, based on a general who served under Deborah the judge, and his family name reflects the current posture of American military thinking that "air power" can win wars through "shock and awe." Both of these names are likely found in several African and Middle-eastern cultures whether Islamic or not, demonstrating to the world that American Diversity really does function.
If he changes any part of his name, the H. should stand for "Harrison." The reason is that the name "Hussein" has pretty well been spoiled by the former Baathist tyrant of Iraq. So switching up would settle any qualms about patriotism.
The best name for a President is "Truman." One of the worst is "Bush."
The time has come to rank Presidents on their names and whether they should have changed them:
George Washignton. No complaints, even if his name comes from the Middle English and literally means "the village where the peasants bring their laundry."
John Adams. No complaints. Thomas Jefferson. Even better. James Madison. Fine. James Monroe. Still no complaints. John Quincy Adams.
Hold it. "Quincy?" Are you kidding?
Andrew Jackson. That's more like it.
Martin Van Buren. What, did his friends call him "Marty?" It's not any one part of this name, it's the whole package which sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss.
William Henry Harrison. Now THAT's presidential! To bad he only survived a month in office.
John Tyler. It's boring, but nothing to get upset about.
James Knox Polk. Everybody sing: "Jimmy knocks polk, and I don't care..." First of all "James Knox" is a tongue-twister, and then you have people pronouncing "Polk" any which way, with "Pullk" and "Poke" and, in north-central Nebraska, "Pork."
Zachary Taylor. "Oh Zachary my darling, don't go outside till Nanny has shined your buttons!" He should have run as "Zip Taylor." Not that anyone knew what a zipper was, back then.
Millard Fillmore. No, no, no. This is just ASKING the big kids on the block, like Spain or England, to beat you up.
Franklin Pierce. Not only does Pierce refer to stabbing, but it also rhymes with Fierce, which would have been a great campaign bumper-sticker in the 1850's: Fierce Franklin Pierce, Four More Yierce!
James Buchanan. Great name for a President. Unlike what happens when you replace "James" with "Pat."
Abraham Lincoln. Old Testament judgments called for an Old Testament name.
Andrew Johnson. No complaints.
Ulysses S. Grant. The two initials together work to make "U.S. Grant" which is great for the union general who accepted the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Plus there are not many options for names that begin with the letter U. Upton? But this still sounds too close to "You sissies is Grant."
Rutherford B. Hayes. I suppose his cabinet members called him Ruthie?
I don't even want to know what the B stands for. He could have taken a hint from Gerald Ford.
James Garfield. The reason this is a great name for a cat, is that it was once the name of a President. The same goes for other cats that could pass as "Zachary" and possibly even "Rutherford." No one should ever name their cat "Millard" or "Fillmore."
Chester Arthur. Fine name for a president. Would have been better if his given name had been "Henry Edward."
Grover Cleveland. Grover? But he served twice.
Benjamin Harrison. One of the top five names for Presidents.
William McKinley. No complaints. Theodore Roosevelt. Presidential.
William Howard Taft. Not bad. Woodrow Wilson. "Woodrow" ranks with "Grover" and "Ulysses."
Warren G. Harding. Good grief! Better learn your bully-avoidance tactics from Millard.
Calvin Coolidge. A great name for a pet AND a president!
Herbert Hoover. I don't know, the name just sucks all the wind out you.
Franklin D. Roosevelt. Good name. Change the D though, from "Delano" to something dignified and presidential, like "Denver."
Harry Truman. Great name at any level of politics.
Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower is a great name. But what do you with "Dwight?" You graduate at the top of your West Point class; that will shut the bullies up.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Good name all around, and going to "Jack" was a good call, too.
Lyndon B. Johnson. Where do parents come up with names like "Lyndon" and "Millard" and "Edsel?" The B doesn't stand for anything helpful.
Richard M. Nixon. Think of changing the M from Millhouse to something that builds a legacy, like Maximillian.
Gerald Ford. Already changed his name to something not so bad as to keep him from not being elected President.
James Earl Carter. Good name.
Ronald Wilson Reagan. No complaints.
George H. W. Bush. Bush? Might you have considered something else, like "Oak?"
William Jefferson Clinton. Works well.
George W. Bush. How about just dropping Bush altogether so that we could have had two George Walkers for President?
Barak Hussein Obama. This definitely refreshes the gene pool of names from the Anglo-Dutsch stangle-hold on the American presidency. But seriously, Mr. President, switching from Hussein to Harrison might not be a bad move as you consider a second term.