Mrs. Dunham died on Monday, Nov 3 aged 86. Speaking to thousands of supporters at his penultimate campaign rally, Obama delivered an impassioned vow to work for all such heroes if elected to the White House. He became visibly emotional when he talked about Mrs. Dunham, whom he called 'Toots'. Hours before the election showdown with Republican John McCain, Obama said his grandmother had passed away in her sleep after a long battle with cancer at her Hawaii home, with his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng by her side.
His voice thick with grief, Obama thanked McCain for an 'incredibly gracious' statement of condolence and said this was a "bitter-sweet time for me."
'She is going home. So, there is great joy as well as tears,' The Telegraph quoted him, as saying. Obama recounted his grandmother's life from her birth in 1922 and her marriage to his grandfather, their struggles through the Great Depression and with their daughter - his mother - through World War II.
"She was somebody who was a very humble person and a very plain-spoken person. She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America. They're not famous. Their names aren't in the newspapers. But each and every day they work hard. They look after their families. They sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing," he said. "And in this crowd there are a lot of quiet heroes like that, mothers and fathers, grandparents who have worked hard and sacrificed all their lives," drawing satisfaction from the hope of a better life for their own offspring. That's what America is about," Obama said, his voice rising to a shout.
"We can bring change to America to make sure that their work and their sacrifice is honored. That's what we're fighting for," he said. Obama's family had described Dunham as "the cornerstone of our family".
Obama learned of her death on Monday, Nov 3 while he was campaigning in Florida. He took a break from his campaign last month to spend time with his grandmother in Hawaii when her condition worsened, but he plans to go ahead with his final campaign appearances. Polls show that Obama is on course to become the first black president of the United States tomorrow, with a large upset required to hand his Republican rival John McCain the White House.