Emotional Obama Pays Tribute to Grandmother

By Julia Hoppock

Nov 3, 2008 7:45pm

CHARLOTTE, NC — Before a crowd of 25,000 at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte Monday evening, an emotional Barack Obama mentioned the grandmother who helped raise him, Madelyn Dunham, who died last night in Hawaii.

Saying this was a "bittersweet time for me," the Illinois senator said, per ABC News’ Sunlen Miller. "We have had a remarkable campaign…No matter what happens tomorrow, I’m gonna feel good about how it’s turned out because all of you have created this incredible campaign."

"Some of you heard that my grandmother, who helped raise me, passed away early this morning," he said. "And look, she is going home. And she died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side, and so there is great joy as well as tears."

"I’m not going to talk about it too long, because it’s hard a little to talk about," he said, nearly choking up.

"I want everyone to know though a little bit about her," he continued. "Her name was Madelyn Dunham and she was born in Kansas in a small town in 1922. Which means that she lived through the Great Depression, she lived through two World Wars. She watched her husband go off to war while she looked after her baby and worked on a bomber assembly line."

Often when we lose someone, we feel the need to talk about them, even with strangers. It helps fill the vacuum. That seemed to be what Obama was going through.

"When her husband came back, they benefited from the G.I. Bill and – they moved West and eventually ended up in Hawaii," he said. "And she was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plainspoken person. She’s one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America who – they’re not famous, their names aren’t in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren’t seeking the limelight. All they try to do is do the right thing.

"And in this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that," he said. "Mothers and fathers and grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives and the satisfaction that they get is seeing that their children and maybe their grandchildren and their great grandchildren live a better life than they did. That’s what America’s about. That’s what we’re fighting for."

Obama also mentioned a condolence message issued earlier in the day from John and Cindy McCain.

"They were extraordinarily gracious, I want to thank them for that," he said. "Just as I want to thank everybody else whose been praying for us and supporting our family during this difficult time. And it’s an incredibly gracious of Sen. McCain and its an example that Sen. McCain has continued to serve his country honorably."

Then he went into his criticisms of McCain’s economic policies.

It was the most emotional and, well, human I’ve ever seen Sen. Obama, who can be affable but also can also have his coolness sometimes seem downright chilly.

– jpt

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