OUR NAMES ARE intimate possessions.
A.A. Milne, with his genius for giving names to men and other mammals ("Pooh," "Christopher Robin," "Tigger"), had a religious reverence for people's names.
"There is something in one's name which seems so private to oneself," he wrote, "that any mention of it by others brings for a moment a vague sense of discomfort, as if a liberty were threatened."
If so, one of the biggest threats to liberty in America today must be having to share a name with a former president of the United States.
And since it's open season on politicians this fall, the Deseret News called several Utahns who've spent their lives living down - and living up to - the names of famous presidents. It soon became obvious that wearing the names of great men is a blessing and a bugaboo.
Take John Kennedy, a Salt Lake attorney.
"Actually," he says, "I go by John Paul Kennedy most of the time now. That way I avoid the `What's your middle initial' question."
Kennedy and his family have lived in Utah for 17 years. He was studying at Harvard when John F. Kennedy took the oath of office, and since that day he's had to deal with stardom.
"I never had a bit of trouble cashing checks in Boston," he says today. "Everyone just took for granted the president and I were related."
Soon after JFK's death, attorney Kennedy was on his way to a meeting with another lawyer. The secretary buzzed her boss. "John Kennedy is calling for you," she said. There was a pause. Finally the attorney replied.
"Just where is he calling from," he said.
Kennedy finds that people tend to remember his name easily - a plus - and most have pleasant memories of the former president.
"It's also given me special interest in the man himself," Kennedy says. "Even when he was a senator I followed his career, and I've read several Kennedy biographies.
"I'm LDS, but I have to say that having the last name Kennedy and using the name John Paul makes me sound pretty Catholic."
Needless to say, the teasing hasn't gotten as pointed with Kennedy as it has with Utah's Richard Nixon. He finds himself in all kinds of predicaments.
Our Nixon is a doctor of radiology who often gets called "Tricky." His response?
"I just give them the `V' sign," he laughs.
While going to school in Washington, D.C., in fact, Dr. Nixon was invited to meet the then-vice president.
"The whole thing was set up as Richard Nixon meets Richard Nixon," he says today. "But I was in and out of there in 13 seconds. I got a real feel for the way politics operate from that."
LYNDON JOHNSON OF Bountiful has also had to develop a sharp sense of humor over the years. Besides the standard questions (Were you named after the president? Are you a Democrat?) he's often addressed as Mr. President and has to put up with fun-loving friends who - after Johnson introduces himself to strangers - often pipe, "and let me introduce myself. I'm Richard Nixon."
"I never met President Lyndon Johnson," says the local Lyndon, "but I wish I had. I'd like to visit his ranch sometime. And I'd like to let him know some of the hassles he's caused me and tell him, hey, thanks a lot."
Johnson says people often tell him he should run for office. "They say I have the name for it," he says. "But there's a drawback. I can't stand politics."
Woodrow Wilson of Salt Lake City says the question he gets over and over is: "Are you a Democrat?"
"And of course I am," he says.
He admits that most of the teasing he gets nowadays comes from old people.
"Being named Woodrow Wilson is just one of those things you get from being born at a certain time and place," he says. "Needless to say, I do know quite a bit about the man."
Finally, no collection of commanders in chief would be complete without a George Washington.
The George Washington we located works in medical personnel.
"It seems every person I meet has to get in his 2 cents worth about my name," says Washington. "It's gotten now so I know everything they're going to say before they say it."
Washington moved here just five months ago with his wife, who's been nicknamed "Martha" by their church congregation. He got his name through the backdoor, so to speak, having been named after his grandmother Georgia.
"What makes it doubly interesting for people is I'm black," he says. "I used to get teased quite a bit in high school and college. It made me a little self-conscious, you know. Sometimes I start pulling out my I.D. as soon as I say my name. But I understand. I mean, when I run across somebody named Abraham Lincoln, I want to know all about it, too."
So, in the end, carrying around the name of a famous U.S. president can be a burden at times. But it can also add a pinch of salt to a person's life.
In fact, you have to wonder how many folks named George Bush and Michael Dukakis are out there in the heartland right now, just waiting for the shoe to drop.