Wait a while before renaming things for Ted

Unseemly haste during time of grief always causes regret


The Zakim Bridge is one of the World's Top Ten and should be renamed for Ted Kennedy. Above is the Amber Alert sign on the bridge during yesterday's downpours as the state mourned his loss. Walter Brooks photo.

Let's try to learn from history rather than repeat it

By Walter Brooks

The minute a great or famous person dies there is always a rush to rename things in their honor. Boston did it a decade ago when it named the majestic new bridge crossing the Charles River the Leonard P. Zakim Bridge. The roadway on that bridge is the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway (Route I-93) named for Ted Kennedy's maternal grandfather.

Not one person in a thousand today knows who Zakim was.

The bridge's name commemorates Zakim who was a Boston civic leader and civil rights activist. Originally Massachusetts Republican Governor A. Paul Cellucci wanted to name it the "Freedom Bridge," however in 2000 local clergy and religious leaders, including Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, requested the Zakim name shortly after Mr. Zakim's death from myeloma. Gov. Cellucci agreed to the naming, but community leaders from the insular community of Charlestown objected to the name as they felt that since the design reflected the nearby Bunker Hill memorial, it should be named the "Bunker Hill Freedom bridge". Today the unwieldy full name of the bridge is "The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge".

Today not one Massachusetts resident in a thousand has the slightest idea who Zakim was. The unseemly haste in naming what is now a symbol of our state's capital city for him seems ill-advised in the extreme.  The Travel Channel has ranked the Zakim Bridge 9th in their list of the World's Top Ten Bridges.

Cape Canaveral becomes Cape Kennedy becomes Cape Canaveral

When Ted Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy, died in 1963, his widow Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis suggested to President Lyndon Johnson that renaming the Cape Canaveral facility would be an appropriate memorial. However, Johnson recommended the renaming not just of the facility, but of the entire cape which had born the name Canaveral for four centuries. Accordingly, Cape Canaveral was renamed Cape Kennedy.

Honor Ted in a manner in which the ages will approve.

This was not popular in Florida, and a decade later the state passed a law restoring the former 400-year-old name. The Kennedy family issued a letter stating they "understood the decision". Jacqueline also stated if she had known that the Canaveral name had existed for 400 years, she never would have supported changing the name of the cape. The Space Center itself retains the "Kennedy" name.

A serendipitous way to honor Ted and undo a mistake

Senator Kennedy must also be honored, but let's do it after the hysteria has settled and in a manner in which the ages will approve.

One idea would be to undo the state's mistake of a decade ago and rename one of the World's Top Ten Bridges in his name, the Ted Kennedy Bridge with his grandfather's name on its roadbed already.

And while we're at it, let's ask the President to rename his Healthcare Bill as "Kennedy Care" and let his former Republican colleagues votes against that.

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