Page last updated at 10:37 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Barack Obama Jr: Babies named after the US president

By Sue Mitchell
Producer, Obama's Babies

Composite image of Art Barack,Obama Oduor and Obama Kabba
Three babies named after Barack Obama, from the UK, Kenya and the US

It is hard to imagine a more personal endorsement of a politician than to give your baby his name - after all, a vote takes a moment, a name is for life.

But there is a tradition of Americans reacting to their presidents in this way. The name Franklin reached its peak of popularity in 1933, when Roosevelt's tenure was beginning.

Dwight jumped in favour in both 1945 and 1953 when Eisenhower helped win World War II, and then became president.

But the worldwide fascination with Obama - who became the first black US president exactly one year ago - was startling. Here is the story of how babies from three different countries - Kenya, the UK and the US - came to be named after Barack Obama.


The Obama campaign was closely followed in Kenya, particularly in the Nyanza province of south-west Kenya, where Obama's father was born and raised.

Evelyne Achieng Oduor, a businesswoman living close to the president's ancestral home in Kogelo, was pregnant with her fourth child as she sat glued to coverage of the Obama campaign.

"Our son was born on the same day as the election and we decided to call him Barack Obama, so that as a child maybe he can cut the character of the one we called him after.

Evelyne Oduor and baby Obama
Evelyn Oduor with baby son, Barack Obama Oduor

"We wanted to remember that day and to remember the first black African to be a US president," she said.

She seems to hope that some of the Obama family magic will rub off on a child who shares the name not just of the president, but of his wife and daughters too.

As Evelyne gazes at her youngest son she is clearly looking for portents of the future.

"He repeats what you are saying in gestures. So other people do say that he really behaves like the one whom we named him after.

"The name Barack Obama is being taken seriously in my area. There are some schools called Barack Obama - both primary and secondary.

"The people like President Obama, his speeches and the way he's communicating," she said.

In Swahili the name Barack Obama means "blessed one" and has inspired many mothers when it comes to choosing a name for their baby.

Of the 15 babies born on election night in the New Nyanza Provincial Hospital in Kisumu, five boys were named Barack Obama and three girls were called Michelle.


In the city of Newcastle in north-east England, expectant parents Amit and Emer Chatterjee were also swept along in the enthusiasm.

I haven't heard him talk a lot on particular race issues, but people around him are talking about race issues so in a way just his very being has brought it to the fore
Emer Chatterjee

Amit's parents were originally from Calcutta and he was brought up in Lancashire during the 1970s, which was, at that time, less than welcoming to Asian immigrants.

Emer was raised in County Monaghan in the Irish Republic, where religious rather than racial tensions dominated the atmosphere.

Barack Obama seemed to offer a vision of harmony absent from their youths. They called their son Art Barack Chatterjee.

"We did feel that it was a kind of historic turning point... who knows what will happen in the future but we definitely felt at that time that there was something very big happening.

"He came across as a very inspirational and charismatic figure.

"His racial background was important as well to us," Amit said.

Baby Obama Chatterjee
Baby Art Barack Chatterjee

"I haven't heard him talk a lot on particular race issues, but people around him are talking about race issues so in a way just his very being has brought it to the fore and people can see what he's achieved," Emer said.

As a GP Amit is pleased with the progress in health reform Obama has made.

"In Britain most people think the NHS is a good thing - and the fact that in the richest country in the world some people don't get healthcare because they can't afford it is inconceivable.

"So the fact that he's managed to face down the opposition and get something through is again an historic achievement," he said.


Isha Kallay and baby Barack
Isha says she is now known locally as "Obama Momma"

In Washington DC, 35-year-old Isha Kallay proudly shows customers in her hair braiding salon the latest addition to her family - Obama Alhaji Kabinech Kabba.

The name came to her during the Democratic primary campaign when she dreamt that Barack Obama was stood atop a hill giving a speech to a multitude. The light of the moon and the stars shone upon him.

"When I turned around, Hillary Clinton was down the hill. She was trying to climb the hill and she couldn't make it.

"I knew Hillary Clinton wouldn't make it and I decided on that day that Obama would be the winner and I decided to call my baby Obama whether a boy or a girl."

By naming him after the president I hope it shapes his destiny - I want him to achieve in his life
Isha Kallay

Her son, born on 3 May 2008, is thought to be the first baby to be named after Obama in the US.

Isha became well-known locally, when Barack Obama won the election.

"People don't even know my name in my area anymore. People just call me Obama Momma," Isha said.

Originally from Sierra Leone, she arrived in the US 14 years ago, after winning an immigration lottery.

She and her husband have recently felt the effect of the economic slowdow. The house they bought was in danger of being repossessed but an Obama initiative has brought a halt to the legal proceedings.

She dreams that her son will receive the education she longs for.

"By naming him after the president I hope it shapes his destiny. I want him to achieve in his life.

"The president shows that there is nothing standing in the way of success - it's possible to go as far as your dreams will take you."

Obama's Babies will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 18 January at 1100 GMT.

Or catch-up afterwards on BBC iPlayer (UK only).

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