Sunday, May 13, 2012

Barack Obama’s mother

Stanley Ann Dunham, holding her son, Barack Obama.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m looking forward to a movie and dinner with my son and daughter-in-law. In the meantime, I came across this insightful article by David Maraniss in the Washington Post about Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.


Barack Obama’s mother died on Nov. 7, 1995, a few weeks before her 53rd birthday. She was less than two years older than the president is now. Her death from uterine cancer came between two key events in her son’s life. Four months earlier “Dreams From My Father” had been published; it seemed destined to drown unnoticed in the deep ocean of books. One year later Obama won his first election, to the Illinois state Senate, the initial stop on his swift journey to the White House that, along the way, brought a mass audience to that forgotten memoir, which in its best-selling revival defined his political image and provided him with lifelong financial security.

The title of the book was at once understandable and misleading. Obama barely knew his father except in dreams, or nightmares. He spent time with the old man only once, when he was 10, for an unsatisfying month. It is harsh to say but nonetheless likely that Barack Obama II was lucky never to have lived with Barack Obama Sr., an abusive alcoholic. By far the most influential figures in Obama’s early life were his mother and grandmother. He has some of the demeanor of his grandmother and the will and much of the outlook of his mother. “Dreams From My Mother” better evokes his life’s story.

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