Putting family before politics: Senator Obama and his ailing grandmother

Posted on October 21, 2008


And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman..”

She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight and that tonight is her night, as well.

Quotation from the transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions.

Michael Powell, New York Times

Senator Barack Obama will suspend his campaigning for more than 36 hours this week to visit his grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who is gravely ill in Hawaii.

Mrs. Dunham, 85, all but raised Mr. Obama during his teenage years in Hawaii, and he has spoken of her often on the campaign trail. A campaign spokesman, Robert Gibbs, declined to specify the nature of her illness, other than to say it was quite serious. Mrs. Dunham lives in Honolulu.

“I think everyone understands that the decision that Senator Obama is making to go to Hawaii underscores the seriousness of the situation,” Mr. Gibbs said. “As he has said, she poured everything she had into him.”

The Obama campaign has canceled scheduled appearances by Mr. Obama in Des Moines and Madison, Wis. But the senator will make an unexpected stop in Indianapolis on Thursday, Mr. Gibbs said, since that aligns more easily with his plan to depart for Hawaii.

Mr. Obama will fly to Hawaii on Thursday afternoon, and likely depart back to the mainland Friday evening. Mr. Gibbs said he is expected to return to the campaign trail on Saturday.

To leave the trail at this juncture, when the bell lap is upon both Mr. Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, carries an element of risk. Mr. Obama is running ahead in every national poll, but his lead in some recent polls is not large.

But Mr. Obama has little family left. His father and mother are dead, along with his grandfather, Stanley Dunham. His grandmother raised him for many years, while his mother lived in Indonesia.

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