- A young Barack Obama with his mother Ann Dunham/AP photo
President Obama on Tuesday paid homage to his late mother, Ann Dunham, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53. "Today, I'm signing this reform bill into law on behalf of my mother, who argued with insurance companies even as she battled cancer in her final days," the President said in his remarks before signing the health care reform bill.
Mr. Obama began pushing for reform when he announced his candidacy in 2007. Shortly after he launched his presidential run, then-candidate Obama released a 30-second television ad entitled, "Mother" in which he talked about his plan to "cut costs and cover everyone." "For twenty years Washington's talked about health care reform and reformed nothing," Mr. Obama said in the ad. "Unless we stop the bickering and the lobbyists, we'll be in the same place 20 years from now."
The Obama campaign unveiled the ad a week after his then-rival, Hillary Clinton, came out with her proposal on health care. The ad was seen as an attack on the Clinton's failed attempt to pass reform legislation in the early 90's.
Since taking office over a year ago, the President has frequently cited his mother's experience as motivation to get legislation passed.
Most recently he talked about his mother's struggles at the bipartisan health care summit he hosted in February, acknowledging that others in the room had similar stories of despair. "I think everybody here is profoundly sympathetic and wants to make sure that we have a system that works for all Americans," Mr. Obama said, "I do remember the last six months of her life, insurance companies threatening that they would not reimburse her for her costs and her having to be on the phone in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies when what she should have been doing is spending time with her family."
Mr. Obama has long spoken of his childhood and what it was like for him to be raised by a single mother in Hawaii and Indonesia after his father left them. In his book, "Dreams from My Father," he characterized his mother's handling of her illness as graceful. "She helped my sister and me push on with our lives," Mr. Obama wrote, "despite our dread, our denials, our sudden constrictions of the heart. I think sometimes that had I known she would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book - less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life."
The President has often said that he has been touched by the stories he heard on the campaign trail, from people struggling to pay for their health insurance and their mortgages. He constantly gets letters from Americans struggling just to get by, and it is those people he says he fights for each and every day. Their stories hit home for Mr. Obama, who likens their desperation to his mother's. The President said Tuesday he was signing the landmark health bill for his mother and those with stories similar to hers.