The 44th President of the United States is named after his father, who was a Kenyan economist. Barack is an African name meaning “blessed.” It is a form of both the Hebrew name Baruch and the Arabic name Mubarak, which also mean “blessed” and relate to the Arabic barakah. Another common spelling of the name is Barak.
There is no connection between Barack and “barrack,” which has both a different spelling and pronunciation. A barrack is a building or group of buildings that lodge soldiers. It comes from the French barraque and the Spanish barraca, which means “cabin or hut.”
Obama’s middle name Hussein is the first name of his paternal grandfather. The name, which is of Arabic origin, means “good” or “handsome one.”
According to Wikipedia:
Hussein; also spelled Husein, Husain, Hussain, Husayin, Hussayin, Hüseyin, Huseyin, Husseyin, Huseyn, Hossain, Hosein, Hossein, or Husseyn, is an Arabic name which is the diminutive of Hassan, meaning "good", "handsome" or "beautiful". It is commonly given as a male given name, particularly among Shias. In some Persian sources the forms Ḥosayn, Hosayn, or Hossein is used. On the Subcontinent or South Asia, the form used is "Hussain" or "Hossain" in the Bengal region.
This name was not used in the pre-Islamic period, and is recorded to have been first used by the Islamic prophet Muhammad when he named his grandson Husayn ibn Ali, saying he had been commanded to do so by the archangel Gabriel.
Obama is an ancient Kenyan surname. The name is found frequently among the Luo, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya. It is believed that the name derived from the root word obam, which means “to lean or bend.”
A post in the Kenya Advisor says:
Obama gained a lot of attention through his very well received keynote address at the Democratic Convention in 2004. In his address, he mixed elements of his personal story with a vision for an America with opportunities for all. “In no other country on earth, is my story even possible”, he said, pointing to the fact he as the son of a poor black immigrant made it to the US Senate.
There is a bigger irony in that. In Kenya, the Kikuyus are the ruling tribe and for a Luo, like Obama, it’s very hard to become president. Many Kikuyu claim that “they” paved the way for Kenyan independence in 1963 – even though many Kikuyu who talk that way weren’t even born in 1963.
The Luo don’t practice male circumcision and the Kikuyu and several other tribes believe that any real man must be circumcised. Therefore, a Luo cannot be a real man and cannot be President. In fact, the election violence in Kenya of was exactly about this: the sitting president Kibaki, a Kikuyu, defending the primacy of his tribe against Raily Odinga, a Luo, and his supporters who were angry that they were marginalized for so long.
So in Kenya, the joke is now going around that it’s easier for a Luo to become President in the United States than in Kenya.
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