Thursday, November 13, 2008


Last Tuesday night, I was listening to Robert Siegel and Nichelle Norris try to keep us all up to date, or rather up to minute, with all the news coming in from everywhere back east. Because there's always some blank time between polls closing, whoever hosts all those news shows has to keep talking - especially on public radio, where they can't break to commercials or dazzle us with special visual effects like holograms to fill in the time.

The discussion was, of course, about the ethnic background of who was at that time still only "likely" to be our next President. Robert Siegel remarked that Obama would be the first president whose name ended with a vowel, unless you counted Kennedy. Nichelle Norris darted in with "And if you count 'Y' as a vowel."

I'm reading Middlesex, which was published in 2002, and while discussing Dukakis' run for the White House in 1998, Eugenides writes in the voice of the narrator, the grandchild of Greek immigrants:

..."Dukakis." A name with more than two vowels in it running for President! The last time that had happened was Eisenhower (who looked good on a tank). Generally speaking, Americans like their presidents to have no more than two vowels. Truman. Johnson. Nixon. Clinton. If they have more than two vowels (Reagan), they can have no more than two syllables. Even better is one syllable and one vowel: Bush. Had to do that one twice.

(I thought of some three syllable presidents. We've had four since 1901, two of whom were named Roosevelt).

Just above the part I've quoted, Eugenides writes, "Maybe the time had come when anyone - or at least not the same old someones - could be President."

Seems like the time has come now. Obama's not even an incumbent vice president after a successful eight years, which is what I was expecting it would have to be for a person of color to be elected president.

No comments: