New Obama Ad Focuses on Grandparents

Presidential candidate says they helped him achieve his American dream

By Rich Thomaselli

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has unveiled three new television ads in Pennsylvania ahead of the state’s April 22 primary, including a 60-second spot in which he talks about his maternal grandparents, who have figured prominently lately in campaign speeches about race relations.

In the commercial titled “Opportunity,” Obama talks about the American dream being made possible by his family.

“I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. My grandfather served in Patton’s Army and my grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line. They didn't have money, but they gave me love, a thirst for education, and a belief that we're all part of something larger than ourselves.”

The spot is punctuated by black and white still photos of an infant Obama with his mother; a picture of his grandparents posing; another photo of a young Obama with his grandmother; and a color photo of Obama sitting between his grandparents on a New York City park bench while he was a student at Columbia University. Interspersed are black and white video of World War II-era Army troops and an airplane assembly plant.

Obama was raised, in part, by his grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham. He lived with them in their apartment in Honolulu from the age of 10 until he left for Columbia.

Ironically, the spot comes on the heels of racially charged comments made by Obama’s former Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as well as comments Obama made about race relations, both in his 1995 book, Dreams From My Father, A Story of Race and Inheritance (Three Rivers Press, 2004), and on the campaign trail recently. Obama, who is of mixed race, said his white grandmother made him “cringe” at times at some of the things she said regarding race.

But in a powerful speech on race in America, Obama said he would no more disown his pastor than he would the black community in general or his own family. He praised the woman he still calls "Toot’" — short for the Hawaiian phrase of endearment for a grandmother or elder, Tutu.

“I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother, a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe,” Obama said.

Dunham, now 84 and still living in Honolulu, has declined all interview requests — including those from mainstream media — politely saying she does not give interviews.

These days, the election's on everyone's mind — including ours! So from time to time, Grandparents.com reports on political issues that pertain to grandparents and grandchildren. We make every effort to keep this coverage 100 percent impartial — meaning, we are not affiliated with nor do we support a particular party, campaign, or organization. What we do support is every grandparent's right to know about the issues that affect them. We think it's great that so many grandparents are getting involved in the election, and, as always, we'll do our very best to keep you informed.

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