In the Arena

To The Mountaintop

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Word comes that Barack Obama’s grandmother has died. The timing is ridiculous. But think, for a moment, if you will of Madelyn Dunham, a white woman from Kansas, strolling the aisle of a supermarket, or having lunch in a coffee shop, with her grandson–way back at the turn of the 1970s, when such sights were uncommon, even in Hawaii. Think about what her friends might have thought, or said, about her…situation. Think about what she poured into the child during the years when her daughter was in Indonesia and she was the closest thing to a mother that Obama had; think about the impact that she and her husband had on creating the man we’ve come to know, and the satisfaction she must have felt in her dying days.

Some politicians simply are larger than life. Their stories are the stuff of high drama. Over the past few days, I’ve been hearing about the high emotions out in the field, as volunteers flood Obama offices to help canvass–and, in some places, find they have to wait on line for a spot on a phone bank. It is almost banal at this point to say that this has been the most remarkable election I’ve ever seen. It’s been a privilege to be a small part of it, to have had a ringside seat. And now, there is a sense that tomorrow will be the sort of day none of us ever forgets, one way or another–a day of reckoning, in the purest sense, when we will suddenly see ourselves and our country differently, for good or ill.

It will also be the first day that Barack Obama lives without the presence of the woman who was his surrogate mother. How sad for him, how remarkable that it would happen this way.

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