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Obama suspends campaign to visit ailing grandmother
By Brian W. Carter (Staff Writer)
Published October 23, 2008

With his 85-year-old maternal grandmother in gravely ill condition, Senator Barack Obama has suspended his presidential campaign today and Friday to be with her in Hawaii.

The campaign made no formal announcement on the exact status of her condition, but Obama's senior aide Robert Gibbs said that the senator's decision "underscores the seriousness of the situation."

Madelyn Payne Dunham, who will turn 86 on Sunday, is currently at her Honolulu apartment after being released from a hospital. She is also Obama's last living parental figure and despite not being able to travel, she has followed the campaign closely on television.

Charles Payne, Obama's great uncle and Dunham's sister, told the Associated Press Tuesday that in addition to "not being well for a long time," Durham had recently suffered a broken hip in a recent accident.

Along with her late husband, Stanley Armour Dunham, she helped to raise Obama in Hawaii when he left his mother, Ann Dunham, in Indonesia at the age of 10. Living in a two-bedroom apartment, they helped him to earn a scholarship at the prestigious Punahou High School.

He recalled later during a campaign ad that it was during the years he spent with the Dunhams that he learned values such as "accountability and self-reliance. Love of counry. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbor as you'd like to be treated."

In his memoir "Dreams from My Father," he described how his grandmother, whom he described as a surrogate parent, woke up at 5 a.m. to go to her job as a bank secretary and during her two-decade career, she worked her way up to become vice-president.

It was that work ethic and sacrifice crafted during their years in Kansas that had a profound impact on Obama and he paid tribute to that during his biggest moment of the campaign so far.

At the Democratic National Convention where he accepted his party's nomination, he told the Denver crowd about what he learned from one of his biggest supporters.

"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," he said.

Later that month, Obama and his family visited his grandmother for the first time in 19 months and once again, he stressed the importance of maintaining family ties at her age.

"I want to make sure I am spending time with her on a consistent basis and so she can see her great-grandchildren," he told reporters then.

It's that example of sacrifice that perhaps spurred Obama to temporarily leave his campaign behind and do what he was unable to do 13 years ago for his mother.

In 1995, he missed being by his mother's side when she suddenly died of ovarian cancer. He was in the middle of his first campaign for the Illinois state senate and wasn't able to make it back in time.

He later admitted that it was the biggest mistake of his life and despite the presidential election approaching in two weeks, it's a decision he has chosen not to repeat.

 

Categories: Political

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