Name a San Jose Street After Barack Obama
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Although Americans have varied, sometimes divisive opinions about Barack Obama, this is not in dispute: he was the first person of color in United States history to become president. This was not just a huge accomplishment for Barack Obama himself or the African American community, it was a historic one for our entire country.
If racism is one of America’s original sins, then Barack Obama's election was a crucial step toward recognizing, and trying to move beyond, this shameful part of our history.
The legacy of President Obama's election doesn't even touch on the grace and integrity with which he led America through eight years of a scandal-free presidency during a Great Recession, an ongoing war, and other high obstacles. Moreover, he implemented policies which many Californians support and from which we’ve benefitted.
For all these reasons, I’m encouraging Silicon Valley city leaders to honor Barack Obama’s historic presidency by naming streets after him.
Upon initial reflection, some may raise the question: do we name places after people while they are alive? Actually, there is precedent in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Diridon Station is named after the still active transit advocate Rod Diridon, Sr. Additionally, “Ronald Reagan” was added to Washington National Airport six years before his death and Houston’s main airport is named after the 93-year old first President Bush. There are already a handful of American schools named after Barack Obama.
Proposing naming a street after someone is the easy part; what matters as much is picking out the actual street to name. A few options come to mind:
1. As new development occurs in a city like San Jose, say north of San Pedro Square or near a future transit station, San Jose could name a new street after Barack Obama.
2. Alternatively, we could keep the name of an existing street and add a second, commemorative name to it as other cities like New York do.
3. We could rename an existing street that has the same name as another street in the same city. In Downtown San Jose, Almaden Boulevard and Almaden Avenue are only two blocks from each other. We shouldn't have two streets with the same name, particular two so close together.
It reminds me of the first time I drove through Atlanta, where there are two Peachtree streets. Like the Almadens, the Peachtree streets run parallel through downtown, two blocks apart. I got confused trying to navigate through a city with two streets of the same name. How terribly discombobulating; I'd hate for similar confusion and distress to occur for folks visiting San Jose.
To prevent this, we could rename an important, symbolic street such as Almaden in Downtown San Jose after an important, symbolic president.
In these times that again feel dark with uncertainty, many people could use a small, symbolic step forward that honors our nation’s history and its first African-American president.
Naming a street after President Obama could offer hope, as well as civic pride, to not just people of color living in Silicon Valley, but all our people. That’s a small change a lot of us can believe in.
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