Dunham raised him during many of his formative years as a teen, and he said about her that she taught him and his siblings to take chances and, of course, one of the biggest chances was this improbable run for the presidency.
Obama visited her a couple of weeks ago in Hawaii, taking a rare break from the campaign trail and predicted at the time that it may be the last time he would see her and the last time that she would see him and that she might not make it to Election Day.
"She was the cornerstone of their family," said Valerie Jarrett, Obama senior advisor. "The strength, her humility, her tenacity, he was speaking about her yesterday and said, 'Boy, she's tough.' So I think she gave him a sense of self, a sense of strength and courage. She was also very kind and decent woman. So I think he reflects many of her traits and I know he'll miss her and I know that obviously he wishes she could have been with him but she's so proud of both he and her other grandchildren."
It's likely that regardless of what Obama says in his speech Tuesday night, whether it's a declaration of victory or something else, one of the first thing he is will do is acknowledge the passing of his grandmother and the important role she played in his life and instilling in him the traits that enabled him to defy an awful lot of odds and get one day away from being elected the first African American president of the united states.
Monday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, Obama was a shaken, emotional grandson who was remembering the woman he called Toot, which is short for the
Hawaiian word 'tutu' that means grandmother. She is a woman who raised him in Hawaii. She taught him a lot of the things that have carried him far, much farther than many had ever imagined.
Obama talked about that on the stump in North Carolina.
"Look, she has gone home. And she died peacefully in her sleep, with my sister at her side. And so there's great joy as well as tears," Obama said.
The magnitude of the loss overwhelmed Obama momentarily as he appeared to fight back tears before going on with the rest of the speech.
The candidate learned of her death about 8 a.m. EDT Monday while campaigning in Florida.
Statement from Barack Obama and Maya Soetoro-Ng on the Death of Their Grandmother
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.