She hadn't yet become a TV personality, received thousands of dollars in donations or made her flight plan — and so she hated her name. Amelia Rose Earhart of the second grade decided she would be Amy. She couldn't understand why her parents gave her the name of a famous woman. So she was Amy. Amelia was just too big.
Fast forward 24 years, and the name couldn't be big enough. It has brought her financial sponsorship, an Internet following, and, most of all, the chance to fly a plane around the world. A decade after she took her first flying lesson (and changed her name back to Amelia), the 31-year-old Denver woman embarked on an 18-day, 24,300-nautical-mile trip to retrace the path of her namesake. She landed in Oakland, Calif., on Friday night, becoming the youngest female to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine plane.
"I am a woman who has charted the course of her life based around another woman's legacy," Earhart said.
For most, the name our parents chose is the name that we carry. We make it our own by deciding who we are. Unless of course, the world has decided for you. The blessing or burden of living with a famous name goes beyond the awkwardness of introducing oneself ("Yes, it is real," "No, we're not related") and can affect the course of a day, an opportunity or, in Earhart's case, a life.
Take it from Abraham Lincoln, a man from Lake Stevens, Wash. Dedicated to the honest reputation of his namesake, Abraham Lincoln told police his legal name when caught jaywalking at 16. With no driver's license to show, the young Lincoln was arrested under the assumption that he would not reveal his real name.
Years later, his fate flipped. Abraham Lincoln was caught attempting to steal a "Lincoln Rock Company" sign in Lincoln, Calif. (honest, he promises). The cops let him off when they saw the irony of the situation.
Casey Anthony is a mother of six children in Tazewell, Tenn. Every time she makes a restaurant reservation, she makes a point to say she's not that Casey Anthony. It's highly inconvenient to be named Casey Anthony when you're trying to become a school teacher.
Justin Bieber is a teen in Fairview, Mont. He is a basketball player, aspiring car designer and sugar beet farmer. He does not like the other Justin Bieber's music, and he is not at liberty to disclose how his name assists him with talking to girls because his mom was listening to his phone call with the Post.
For Amelia Rose Earhart, the journey of having a well-known name came full circle when she flew over Howland Island, the spot the first Amelia never made it to in 1937. "It was such a big risk for her to take," Earhart said. "To see how tiny that island was, I have a whole new respect for that woman."
Earhart plans to continue honoring her namesake with a scholarship fund for teenage girls interested in aviation.