President Obama opened his speech to the annual convention AARP, the nation’s top seniors lobby, with some warm, nostalgic recollections of his maternal grandmother:
And today is especially poignant for me I think because I can’t help to think about my grandmother, Madelyn Dunham. During World War II, she worked on a bomber assembly line, with a baby at home, while her husband was off serving his country. And in the postwar years, she worked her way from a secretary to vice president at her local bank. And later, she helped raise my mother, and then obviously helped raise me and my sister.
She was a great citizen who lived up to her responsibilities. And after a lifetime of hard work, what she hoped for in return was to be able to live out her golden years with dignity and security, and to see her grandchildren and her great grandchildren have a better life.
And she was fiercely independent, so she didn’t want a lot of help from me or anybody else. She just wanted to make sure that the work she had put in was going to pay off. And I’m thinking a lot about her these days because we lost my grandmother three days before I was elected to this office, back in 2008. But rewarding those hopes that she and so many other Americans shared — restoring the basic bargain that says if you work hard, that work will pay off — is one of the reasons I ran for this office in the first place. The values that she taught me are part of what has driven me over the last four years
Back in 2009, he had some rather less tender thoughts about her and how the elderly in general may not deserve as much healthcare as rest of us:
President Barack Obama said his grandmother’s hip-replacement surgery during the final weeks of her life made him wonder whether expensive procedures for the terminally ill reflect a “sustainable model” for health care.
The president’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had a hip replaced after she was diagnosed with cancer, Obama said in an interview with the New York Times magazine that was published today. Dunham, who lived in Honolulu, died at the age of 86 on Nov. 2, 2008, two days before her grandson’s election victory.
“I don’t know how much that hip replacement cost,” Obama said in the interview. “I would have paid out of pocket for that hip replacement just because she’s my grandmother.”
Obama said “you just get into some very difficult moral issues” when considering whether “to give my grandmother, or everybody else’s aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they’re terminally ill.
“That’s where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues,” he said in the April 14 interview. “The chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health- care bill out here.”