04/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What's in a Name?

Glenn Beck accused President Obama of being a radical because when he transferred to Columbia he went back to using the name that his parents had given him at birth.

BECK: He chose to use his name, Barack, for a reason. To identify, not with America -- you don't take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion.

Media Matters breaks Beck's comment down perfectly:

OK, let's break down the problematic parts of this, just so there isn't any room for confusion. First, the suggestion that certain names, such as the African name Barack, are un-American. Second, the idea that Obama, in embracing his African name, was doing so at the expense of his American identity, as if the two are mutually exclusive (someone relevant to this discussion once talked about the 'the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too'). And third, the implication that Obama's father's Kenyan roots are linked to his 'radical'-ness.

That's the best I can do for you, Glenn. I can't break it down any further. If you don't see why some people would get upset that you accused the president of adopting his African name in order to repudiate his American identity and connect with his father's radical Kenyan heritage, then I'm afraid you might be a lost cause.

Here is how President Obama explained why he assumed his given name after transferring to Columbia University in Newsweek in 2008: "It was not some assertion of my African roots ... not a racial assertion. It was much more of an assertion that I was coming of age. An assertion of being comfortable with the fact that I was different and that I didn't need to try to fit in in a certain way."

It is no surprise that the poll taken by an independent pollster for the Daily Kos indicates that...

* 36 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, 22 percent are not sure, and 42 percent think he is a natural citizen.

* 31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a "racist who hates White people" -- the description once adopted by Fox News's Glenn Beck.

What I find really amazing about this is that Beck and his followers think that Barack Hussein Obama has chosen his name as if their names were not given to them at birth. And, with regards to names, young people assume nicknames all the time and as they grow up they go back to their given name. Do we have a country of radical would-be-presidential youths?

What's in a name? Barack means "blessed one" in Arabic and Swahili. In ancient Hebrew it means "thunder." Pretty awesome, I'd say.

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