In Willingboro, New Jersey, the township council voted to change the name of a community building from “Kennedy Center” to “President Obama Center.” Inquisitr reported previously on the name change and asked readers if the name change was disrespectful to the late President Kennedy. Since the news broke, some Americans are joining the residents of Willingboro in protest against the name change.
According to Political Insider, Willingboro’s official Facebook page is getting inundated with angry posts:
“The city keeps cleaning up their official Facebook page, but has been overwhelmed by local citizens who are not pleased with the decision. For example, one wrote, ‘Next thing you’ll know, they’ll demand Washington, D.C. rename the Lincoln Memorial after Al Sharpton.’ And another wrote, ‘They should just call it the ‘Thug President Disgrace Center’ Worst Pres in History!'”
The Washington Times featured an article about the NJ residents’ outrage. Since reports of the Kennedy Center’s name change made the national news, many citizens from sea to shining sea are outraged. It seems regardless of people’s opinions on Obama’s presidency, most feel that Kennedy’s name should stay on the building. Willingboro’s council person Darvis Holley happens to “idolize Barack Obama” and stands behind the vote.
The soon-to-be President Obama Center was once the town’s high school. At that time, it was named “John F. Kennedy High School.” Councilman Chris Walker said that because the building which is both a senior center and a rec center, is undergoing renovations and updates, it was time to change the name as well. Council members stressed that President Kennedy is still honored by the township in various other places around the community. John F. Kennedy was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, taking a bold public stand for equality during a turbulent time in U.S. history. The deputy mayor and council reportedly said that the residents mostly support the center’s name change. Officials stress the change was never intended to disrespect Kennedy. Still, public opposition to the name change is relentless, and does not reflect the council’s position.
John Glynn happened to give the Willingboro’s Facebook page a five star review. It was a five star review drowning in one star reviews. His comment beneath the five stars, though, showed his actual outrage:
“Changing the name from the Kennedy Center to the Obama Center? Great way to lower the standards for everyone in your town. Obama is America’s worst travesty. Good luck with your lowered standards, you deserve them.”
Chaney Stansbury from Indiana wrote:
“This is stupid. Kennedy actually went to your town, Obama did not. If you want to honor Obama, build a new building and put his name on it. Don’t take a building that is already dedicated to remembrance of someone.”
The council defends their decision, according to Political Insider, because President Obama has made a huge impact on the city and is loved by residents. Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Jennings, recalled the hopefulness in Willingboro, a heavily black township, when Obama was first running for president:
“I think that people have a sense of pride about him. We had so many new people register to vote, people who had never voted before, people who were disenfranchised. All of a sudden, we had people wrapping around the buildings when the polls opened. It was a sense of history, everybody wanted to be a part of it.”
In the township’s quarterly newspaper, which included April, May, and June community news, no mention of a name change was addressed. There is no mention of the name change to honor President Obama within the minutes of the previous township meeting in July either. It is unclear if public input was invited on the center’s name change.
Within the meeting’s notes, though, it was clear that Jennings dislikes bad press and loves her community. At the July 1st meeting, a concerned citizen addressed an article in “the Willingboro Newspaper” by a Mr. Nixon about the Board of Education. Deputy Mayor Jennings reportedly agreed that the negative article should not have been in the paper. She questioned how articles are selected and who proof reads them. The minutes of the meeting stated of Jennings, “She said that we do get tired of reading negative publications about our kids and our town.”
According to the Burlington County Times, given the public outrage over changing the name to “President Obama Center,” the public will be given the opportunity to express their feelings at the township meeting on September 2, 2014. After that, a vote will be cast again by council to ratify the August 5 vote to change the name of the building from “Kennedy Center” to “President Obama Center.”
[Artists rendering of Kennedy Center renovation via Burlington County Times]