Sad news on Election Eve

Barack Obama loses his inspiring grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.

By Joan Walsh

Published November 3, 2008 10:00PM (EST)

Suddenly I feel like it was a strange impulse to blog about photos and videos that could inspire an Election Eve cry, with the news that there is genuinely something to mourn today: the death of Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who was 86. In hindsight it helps explain the joy in Obama's voice last night in Cleveland, when he talked about having his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, with him on the campaign trail. He sounded truly, genuinely relieved, and he must have been, given what he's been enduring personally. Life is so deeply unfair sometimes; to imagine Dunham dying before Election Day just seems absolutely wrong.

"She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility," Obama said, in a statement released with his sister, Maya Soetero-Ng. "She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances." Obama learned about her death this morning, according to AP, and continued with his scheduled campaign events.

I am still glad I posted the videos this morning, especially the one of Obama taking care of John Thornton with Pauline Beck as part of SEIU's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" project. The tenderness and respect with which he treated Beck and Thornton was such a testament to the way his grandmother helped raise him. Our hearts go out to the Obama family, on the eve of what should be a joyous time.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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2008 Elections