Obama cancels campaign events to visit ailing grandmother

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 20, 2008 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Barack Obama will temporarily leave the campaign trail later this week to fly to Hawaii to be at the side of his ailing 85-year-old grandmother, aides said Monday night.

Obama will campaign as planned Tuesday and Wednesday in Florida and Virginia, but is cancelling campaign events Thursday in Wisconsin and Iowa, holding a rally in Indianapolis, and then departing for Hawaii, said senior adviser Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs declined to discuss details of Madelyn Dunham's illness, but said she'd been hospitalized and released late last week and that Obama felt he could not wait until after the Nov. 4 to go home. Obama planned to spend Friday at her side and return to the campaign trail Saturday.

Obama lived with Dunham, who turns 86 on Sunday, and his grandfather in Honolulu for most of his childhood, and for several years his grandparents functioned as his parents while his mother was living in Indonesia. Obama’s mother and grandfather are deceased, as is his father, who left when Obama was 2.

Dunham has been too frail to travel to celebrate Obama's primary election victories or attend the Democratic National Convention, but Obama frequently mentions and thanks her in his speeches.

Dunham “has always been one of the most important people in his life,” Gibbs told reporters Monday night as the campaign flew from Orlando to West Palm Beach, reading from a prepared statement. "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.

"Recently, his grandmother has become ill, and in the last few weeks, her health has deteriorated to the point where her situation is very serious. It is for that reason that Senator Obama has decided to change his schedule on Thursday and Friday so that he can see her and spend some time with her. He will be returning the campaign trail on Saturday."

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