I keep wondering what Barack Obama's mother would think about her son's presidential campaign. Unfortunately, she's not around for anyone to ask that question -- she died of ovarian cancer in 1995.
But there is one photo I keep seeing again and again of a young Barack and his mother, Ann Dunham. It's featured in a Time Magazine cover article from earlier this month on Obama -- a pretty young woman holding lovingly and protectively on to her young son so he doesn't fall off the fence he's perched on top of. It's really a lovely photo and captures one of those fleeting moments of life and parenthood that are common and special at the same time.
Surely, she would be proud as any mother would be. But I can't help wondering how she, his Caucasian mother, would react to his campaign's focus on the African-American part of his heritage?
For better or worse, the color of our skins tends to be a somewhat defining factor in how we are perceived and how we understand ourselves in this country. But aren't our lives informed just as much by how we were raised and by whom?
Obviously the fact that Obama is the first African-American presidential candidate with a real chance to win the White House is momentous and historically important. If Obama were to become president, the fact that the leader of the free world would, for the first time, be an African-American could only be a positive thing in terms of our discussions and feelings about race in America.
But I can't help that I want to hear more about how his mother and her family influenced his life, as well. What part of her heritage does he value and how did it influence him as he grew up?
The fact that she raised him almost single-handedly and saw him graduate from Harvard Law School and get elected to the United States Senate says just as much about her as about him. So to understand him better, I'd really like to know more about her -- the Midwestern woman who was able to raise a son of such accomplishment in an era of so much racial tension.
My husband thought it was odd that I would be so interested in hearing more about a candidate's mother. Maybe it's that photo itself. Maybe it's my curiosity about the fortitude and strength it undoubtedly took for a white mother to raise a black son in the 1960s. But I think her story would be a fascinating one and would tell me something more about the candidate who may become President Obama.