Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama broke into tears in front of a crowd of 25,000 at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte as he shared the news that his grandmother Madelyn Dunham had died Sunday night in Hawaii. “She was one of those quiet heroes we have all across America,” Obama said of the woman who raised him as a young boy. On the eve of the election, wiping tears from his cheeks, Obama told the crowd, “In just one more day, we have the opportunity to honor all those quiet heroes all across America.”
Obama suspended his campaigning last month to visit the ailing Dunham, who had the nickname “Toot,” short for Tutu, the Hawaiian word for grandmother. Dunham, 86, died after a long bout with cancer at her apartment in Honolulu.
“She has gone home,” Obama said. “And she died peacefully in her sleep with my sister at her side. And so there is great joy as well as tears.”
Obama’s wife, Michelle, campaigning in Colorado on Monday afternoon, also teared up when she talked about Toot. This is an emotional time for us,” she told a crowd at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton, according to an Associated Press report. “We were hoping she’d hang in there, but she didn’t. But she knew what was going on.”
Here’s Obama speaking in North Carolina:
Obama and his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, issued a statement:
“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure.
Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.”
The McCain campaign also released a statement from John and Cindy McCain:
“We offer our deepest condolences to Barack Obama and his family as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they remember and celebrate the life of someone who had such a profound impact in their lives.”