Every day A.J. comes home from school and unloads his backpack on our kitchen counter so that his mother and I can look over the art projects, penmanship practice sheets and math workbooks that he has brought home. Yesterday, there was something else, too: A list of the kids in his class. And there, about halfway down, I saw it. There is a boy named Grant in his class. When I saw that, I had to stop myself from shouting, “Another one!”
Lately I have been noticing how many little kids are running around in the world with the last names of presidents for first names. The boy in A.J.’s class is the second six-year-old Grant we’ve gotten to know in our small town. Then there was Harrison, from t-ball. And Madison, the little girl across the street. And I’m pretty sure there was a girl named Reagan in his preschool class a couple years ago.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to make fun of these kids’ names. They are perfectly good names, most of them. (I have my doubts about Reagan.) I just wonder what’s behind this proliferation of presidential last names as kids’ first names.
I’m not ready to go out on a limb yet and posit this as a full-fledged theory, but I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that presidential names have otherwise pretty much disappeared from our culture. A while back in this space I noted that fewer and fewer schools are being named for presidents or for any other kind of person. The trend now is to name them instead for natural features or animals. (There are, reportedly, more schools in Florida named for manatees than for George Washington.)
Maybe the only form of presidential memorial available today is to name your kid after your favorite former chief executive. In a few years, teachers everywhere will be asking little Roosevelts and Buchanans to stop copying from little Van Buren.