Obama Flies to Hawaii To Visit His Gravely Ill Grandmother


                 Obama with his grandparents after his 1979 high school graduation 

by James M. Wall

Barack Obama’s maternal grandparents,  Stanley Armour Dunham and Madelyn Dunham, celebrated with Obama (photo above) when he graduated from high school in Hawaii. 

Obama often speaks of his Kansas background. He traces those family roots to his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who was raised in Augusta, Kan.  Her husband, Stanley, died in 1992 and is buried in Hawaii. He was a veteran of World War II.

Madelyn Dunham, now 85,  was released from a hospital late last week and returned to her home in Honolulu. Her health condition is described as “very serious.”

Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, died of ovarian cancer at age 53. He has described her death as the worst experience of his life.

“The biggest mistake I made was not being at my mother’s bedside when she died. She was in Hawaii in a hospital, and we didn’t know how fast it was going to take, and I didn’t get there in time,” Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2004.

When news arrived of his Grandmother’s serious condition, campaign officials announced that Obama would cancel his appearances at campaign events Thursday afternoon and Friday.  He plans to fly to Hawaii immediately after a hastily-scheduled campaign Indianapolis rally Thursday morning.

He will remain with his grandmother before flying back to continue campaigning Saturday. His wife Michelle will appear at some campaign events during his absence. 

As the Illinois Democrat recounted in his memoirs, Dunham, his maternal grandmother, acted in many ways as a surrogate parent.  A BBC profile of Dunham reports that Barack’s high school years were spent in Hawaii under the watchful eye of his grandparents:

She and her late husband Stanley raised the young Barack in Hawaii for many years while his mother, who had remarried, lived abroad.

Known within the family as “Toot”, a shortened form of the Hawaiian word “tutu” meaning grandmother, she gave him a stable home and the traditional American values brought from her own Midwestern childhood.

She was also a trailblazer in her own right, having risen from a lowly position to be one of the first women vice-presidents of the Bank of Hawaii.

In a major speech on race he gave in March, Mr Obama described her as “a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world”.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll announced Wednesday morning, gave Obama a ten point lead over John McCain, with 12 days left before Election Day.  Some supporters expressed concern that Obama’s momentum might be slowed by his two day absence from campaigning.

A similar criticism was raised in August when Obama traveled to Hawaii, during which time he and his family made frequent visits to see his grandmother.  The candidate explained:

“I am going to see my grandma, who I haven’t seen in almost 18, 19 months, and who’s getting to the age that I want to make sure I am spending time with her on a consistent basis and so she can see her great-grandchildren.”

          Photo above is from the Chicago Tribune, courtesy of the Obama campaign.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall writings.me, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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3 Responses to Obama Flies to Hawaii To Visit His Gravely Ill Grandmother

  1. Rev. Chuck Rawlings says:

    Friends: I cannot believe the validity of the polls coming from Pennsylvania today. I live in urban New Jersey but own a second home up in the mountains and lake country of PA and what I hear is like this: “I can’t get it out of my mind that he’s (Obama) a terrorist. If he gains access to our military secrets we’re finished.” As an educated clergyman, I hear what is a mixture of unconscious racism, the strange Muslim-sounding name, and a people who on the whole watch little TV news, read very little, and are alarmed by the way the world is changing that is not helping them. My message: Forget about the polls, work ceaselessly to help people learn and understand in Pennsylvania, Ohio and elsewhere why Obama deserves their support and confidence.
    Chuck Rawlings
    Presbyterian minister (retired)

  2. My heartfelt sympathy and prayers goes out to the Obama family at their time of loss of a loved one such as their Grandmother. I hope and pray that everyone respects the Obama family and allow the family to grieve in private, and God continue to bless the Obama family each and everyday.

  3. flor iturreta says:

    My sympathy to Mr.obama and Family
    God is taking care of her for you….

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