Howard related because he should change his name to Mt. Baldy. Obama Flexes, Renames Mount McKinley President Barack Obama announced on Sunday that he is changing the name of Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, to Denali. (Can he do that? So he can.) Alaskans have referred to the 20,320-foot summit as “Denali” for years, the Associated Press reports. It is an Athabascan word that means “the high one.” According to the New York Times, the mountain was named for former President William McKinley, for whom it was christened (by a gold prospector) in 1896, while he was campaigning for president. McKinley was assassinated six months into his second term, in 1901; he never visited Alaska. Obama, who cited the Interior Department’s authority to change the name, will become the first sitting American president to visit the Alaskan Arctic during his trip there this week.