Obama leaves campaign trail to visit ill grandmother

State tourism officials, at the time, said Obama's Hawaii vacation generated priceless publicity for the Islands as Hawaii's No. 1 industry — tourism — continued to stagnate.

But on this week's visit, "I think the residents of the state, the people of Hawaii, should definitely respect Sen. Obama and his family's privacy and leave him alone," said State Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua'i, Ni'ihau). "My heart and prayers go out to Barack Obama and his family at this difficult moment."

During her professional life, Dunham was a role model for female professionals in Hawaii and a female banking trailblazer in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In December 1970, Hawaii's top bank at the time — Bank of Hawaii — made Dunham one of two female vice presidents.

Robert Gibbs, the campaign's communications director, said Monday in a statement that "Senator Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has always been one of the most important people in his life. Along with his mother and his grandfather, she raised him in Hawaii from the time he was born until the moment he left for college. As he said at the Democratic Convention, she poured everything she had into him."

Heartland values

Campaign events originally planned for Madison, Wis., and Des Moines on Thursday will be replaced with one in Indianapolis before Obama makes the long flight to Hawaii.

On Friday, Obama's wife, Michelle, will sub for Obama at rallies in Akron and Columbus, Ohio, said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Obama returns to the campaign somewhere in the West, she said.

Obama, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, attended Punahou School while Dunham helped raise him on Beretania Street. Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was helping craftsmen in Indonesia and Africa get small loans to improve their lives and their villages as she pursued her master's and doctoral degrees through the University of Hawaii.

In a campaign ad this year, Obama described Madelyn Dunham as the daughter of a Midwest oil company clerk who "taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland" — things like "accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbor as you'd like to be treated."

He referred to Dunham — and her views on race — in a March 18 speech in Philadelphia designed to both denounce and defend his former, controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In his speech, Obama linked Wright and Dunham when he said, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — 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, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

Obama made a similar reference to Dunham in his memoir, Dreams from My Father, in which he recalled an argument when he was in high school at Punahou between Dunham and her husband, Stanley.

Dunham rode a bus to get to her bank job, and one day had been approached by a man who pressured her for money.

"I gave him a dollar and he kept asking," Obama quoted his grandmother in the book. "If the bus hadn't come, I think he might have hit me over the head."

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