Saturday, October 4, 2008

Not that it matters ...

Or does it?

This is a story from the Norwegian newspaper VG, the biggest newspaper in the country, from today's edition. Not that these things matter in today's dog-eat-dog world, but I found it quite touching, and I want to share.

Clarification for the literally minded: I do think these things matter, but I'm sure many will say that they don't. Anecdotal evidence, just a sappy human interest story, bla bla. Whatever. I think that this is a story that some may be interested in hearing. If you're not interested, cork it. I've translated the story into English and am posting it here. The original, in Norwegian, is here.

I'll be cross-posting this to the BookCrossing forum, since I'm sure there are some members there who will appreciate reading it.

I'm sorry about the annoyingly sappy language - this is a speculative tabloid so that's just how all their articles are.

Mary lacked money to fly home to Norway – he saved her love

ÅSGÅRDSTRAND (VG): Mary was a newlywed and ready to move to Norway, but was stopped at the airport because she didn’t have enough money for the trip. Then a stranger turned up and paid for her.

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time and had just married Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting a new life in Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold with him. But first she had to get all of her belongings across to Norway. The date was November 2nd, 1988.
At the airport in Miami things were hectic as usual, with long lines at the check-in counters. When it was finally Mary’s turn and she had placed her luggage on the baggage line, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.
-You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway, the man behind the counter said.
Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.
-I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions, says Mary.

Although she explained the situation to the man behind the counter, he showed no signs of mercy.
-I started to cry, tears were pouring down my face and I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a gentle and friendly voice behind me saying, That’s OK, I’ll pay for her.
Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.
-He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?
Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man.
-He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.
She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

The piece of paper said ‘Barack Obama’ and his address in Kansas, which is the state where his mother comes from. Mary carried the slip of paper around in her wallet for years, before it was thrown out.
-He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling.
She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker* in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.
In the spring of 2006 Mary’s parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.
In a letter to Mary’s parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC’, Barack Obama writes**:
‘I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I’m happy I could help back then, and I’m delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States senator’.
The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

This week VG met her and her husband in the café that she runs with her friend Lisbeth Tollefsrud in Åsgårdstrand.
-It’s amazing to think that the man who helped me 20 years ago may now become the next US president, says Mary delightedly.
She has already voted for Obama. She recently donated 100 dollars to his campaign.
She often tells the story from Miami airport, both when race issues are raised and when the conversation turns to the presidential elections.
-I sincerely hope the Americans will see reason and understand that Obama means change, says Mary.

*Not at all sure about this part of the translation. The Norwegian word used is 'miljøarbeider', I don't know what the exact English word for that is or even if there is one, and I don't know enough about Obama to say what job of his they're talking about.
**This is my translation of the reporter's translation of the letter. From English to Norwegian and back to English. So obviously it is not correct word for word.

And here she is with her husband and the letter.

This is not a big or important story. But it is a nice story and if one is voting for a person, and not just for a political platform, it might be interesting to hear it. Somehow I don't see this story being covered in American media much, so let's count this as one blogger's contribution to the news coverage of the 2008 election. :-)

If anyone wants to post this anywhere else, be my guest.


«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 239 of 239 said...

This has been a very long, but interesting blog. Everyone I have spoken with over the past 2 weeks feel's certain that we shall officialy install Barak Obamma for President on Jan 20,2009! I am totally in agreement with all of the electorates who have also commited to Obamma.. McCain doesn't stand a chance to win on Nov 4, 2008!

Gabe Audick said...

Thanks for the article. I actually used it for the second post of my first blog( I took a slightly different angle in that it was a refreshing change from each candidate's criticism of the other.

Anonymous said...

True Christian generosity is to give without ever expecting to receive.
To make such a big deal of this one act of generosity if only to elevate Obama and to put him on a pedestal for veneration is to dismiss all the anonymous acts of kindness that happen every day.

Richard said...

Also a very large factor in Obama's policies , present , past , and future , is his wife Michelle . There are indications she is indeed a racist and many do not agree with her views of "the world as it should be " .
There has been much criticism of the hospital where her salary was increased to over $300,000 after the hospital received a ten million dollar grant.
She helped maximize profits by starting a program that turned away many low income patients without health insurance.c
Run a search on grants connected with Obama and you will see many grants to Obama associates with sizable campaign donations just before or just after the grant was awarded .

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this story, its relevant.

And great that lots of constructive comments are going up, despite the nasties.

Jude Bourff said...

Hi Leisha,

I thought you might appreciate this, as well as hopefully giving the Obama-haters some pause...

Do We the People Honor our POWs Words and Experiences?

My ideas about Sen. John McCain have changed a lot in the last few months. I have heard the "spin" from both sides of the aisle about him, along with doing internet research on my own.

This man has had an AMAZING life!
(and I am not necessarily meaning that in a good way.)

There is no doubt in my mind that parts of it (Hanoi) were horrendous.
I also have no doubt that I would not have had the strength to bear it.

I used to vilify John McCain. I think that I made him a caricature of himself.

I have a lot of respect for him as a survivor.

That being said; I have grave doubts about John McCain becoming the President of the United States.

Just like there are questions to be answered about the effects of William Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright on Sen. Barack Obama; there are also questions to be answered about the effects of Russian and Vietnamese Interrogations on Sen. John McCain.

The answers, in my opinion, can be ascertained by the fellow POWs of John McCain and his actions.

(For if we honor John McCain's service, then we honor his fellow POWs and THEIR service; true?)

I am afraid that I cannot write off the experiences of other POWs just because they are not as famous as John McCain.

Nor do I think should any of you.

Main Stream Media needs to do a much better job.

Jude Bourff

Aureantes said...

Just belatedly (and probably needlessly) commenting re the translation.....immediately as I look at it, "miljøarbeider" looks like "milieu" plus "arbeiter" (German for "worker"), so it seems to be a polyglot-constructed word meaning "community worker" in the sense of "milieu" as social and life environment.

Just to be thoroughly exhaustive about it, you know...

Aureantes said...

As for the story....well, as the saying goes, character is what you do when no one's watching -- and it's the way you are before you start thinking in terms of having to please the public eye in order to gain votes and favour. Not that I was ever intending to vote against Obama, but this gives me even more certainty that his virtue is no mere crowd-pleasing facade.

T.Irwin said...

Thank you for sharing this story.

KarmaofRandi said...

Thank you for this story... it is so refreshing to hear something positive in the world. I live in the United States and have been looking for this article months. The added bonus is the picture along with the article, which shows its credibility.
I have also included it on my blog as well

Thank you again, Simone

Anonymous said...

Yesh, vote for the guy who donated $100 twenty years back to a lady, but show your middle finger who was willing to donate his life for the country. What jerks.......

Any way, Obama would have been a very rich man, bcause $100 would have been big money twenty years back

Anonymous said...

why didnt the author attached the letter here?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this wonderful story about such a fine man. The compassion he showed 20 years ago really shows who he really is. He certainly has my vote. Whereas John McCain has called his wife a cXXX [offensive term for a vagina], Barack Obama is honorable, honest, compassionate and giving. I can tell already he's going to be the finest president in US history. Given what a mess our current admistraton has made of everything, including relations with other nations, it is going to be so nice having someone in charge who care about people and is respectful of those with different views (versus Bush who says anyone not with him is his enemy). Thank you again for posting this great story. I've shared it with many people.

tenerife car rental said...

Thanks for sharing this article with us.Now we know who is Obama..Hopefully he will be the next Mr.President.

Anonymous said...

The literal translation of "miljøarbeider" is "environmental worker". According to Wikipedia, he worked for the Developing Communities Project, which was a community organizing group that included some environmental activities (such as asbestos removal), but wasn't primarily environmental.

I could imagine a few reasons for the difference. One, maybe Obama said "environmental worker" because the work was partially environmental and it was easier than explaining the exact sort of work. Two, maybe Mary mis-remembered what Obama said. Three, maybe the VG reporter mis-reported what Mary said.

Another oddity is the Kansas address. I'm sure Obama had relatives in Kansas at the time, but his closest relatives lived in Hawaii. Maybe Obama had an address there with a relative who isn't reported on in Wikipedia. Maybe the reporter mis-reported that part of the story.

In any case, it's a wonderful story.

(Apologies if this is multi-posted. I tried to do OpenID and it gave me an error message.) said..., we love Obama. We know he is a great man. However we don't want him stuck with this mess that bush has made. I have neighbors who are dihard racist. Yet since bush and his mob have destoyed their dreams they are just simple ole americans like me. We are friends now. It's something about being on the same level that makes you want to get along with your neighbors. If palin gets any where near the white house. I promise you that we will all be a better people. She and caine will destroy america and the next time Obama or the likes of him offers his or her help we will all jump at the oppertunity. Until then lets continue to suffer along with making these mob tied leaders of ours filthy rich. Great story.

Joe said...

Regardless of any political views I may hold,this is a beautiful story, and I want to thank you for posting it :)

Susanne said...

What a lovely story. I hope he becomes president.

Tamale Chica said...


Thank you so much for translating this article and sharing it with us.

Tamale Chica

Anonymous said...

Thank you Leisha for spreading this. I am from America and I am scared to death of the outcome of tomorrow's election. I hope to dear God (whoever that may be) that Obama wins. The whole world is depending on his victory. It says something about our government when not only does the majority of it's citizens want Obama to win, but the entire world is rooting for him as well.

Chadster said...

Well, the election happened, and our man Barack won! Here's to a spirited 8 year post-Bush cleanup effort. Yes we can ;)

suurkulaj said...

This story confirms my opinion that president Obama has a high level of self-actualization or. in brain science terms, is forebrain-dominated.

Such persons are truly good, generous, loving, responsible, honest, wise, having an excellent judgment and the ability to use their intellectual resources even under severe stress.

For details, see the blog of Dr Grandville, "Stress mind and leadership" at

He argues that forebrain-dominance makes a person superior as a president.

I have found no signs of forebrain dominance in the opponent team.

Chris said...

this only confirms what i thought. I voted for McCain because i believe he will be a better president than Obama. I think Obama is a nice person which is all your story indicates but this does not mean he is qualified to be president.

Leisha Camden said...

i believe [McCain] will be a better president

No, he won't. Get your tenses straight. John McCain will never be president.

Personally, I believe that this will be a good thing for your country. Although of course a lot of people will be disappointed (especially Europeans :-) because this is a politician we're talking about, and politics is a dirty game. But I believe that Barack Obama has the intelligence, the integrity and the, dare I say it, humility to make this work pretty well. (Nobody rip my head off - by referring to humility I mean that it's good to be humble to some extent, because no matter what title you hold, there is a great wide world out there, and it's a good thing to be aware of that and not see yourself as the center of it. :-)

Regardless of what one feels, though, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th POTUS on January 20th. I hope that the American people will be able to let the past be the past and all stand together to make the future the best it can be - for all of you. Good luck.

(Also: I know there are lots of comments here that I haven't responded to in detail. Sorry, but this post & its comments section just got too big for me. :-) It's been leading its own life with just moderation from me. Now we all just have to see where real life takes us. :-)

Justin Choo said...

Hi Leisha,

Your interesting post has circulated to this part of the world. I am in Malaysia. Just received the story through email but without any link to source. So I Google Searched and found your wonderful site!!

You would have noticed at the bottom of your post, my link has appeared in your blog under "Black Helped White"

I have uploaded the picture as well. Hope you don't mind.

Thanks, and have a nice day!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This is a wonderful story, and entirely believable.

I also wondered why Mary didn't donate at least $103 to Obama's campaign if not today's equivalent of that amount from 1988.

Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I dont have anything against Barack Obama, but kinda skeptical on the story.. yes, its a good story but just the whole truth about....


1. 20 years ago means Obama was 27 years old. what was he doing then, at the time of the happening?
2. what was Obama doing inline to check in through the counter... was he going to Norway as well?

Leisha Camden said...

1. In 1988 Obama did some travelling. As far as I know, he spent about three weeks in Europe and then about five weeks in Kenya visiting his family there. At what time of the year this was I don't know, but I'm sure it would be easy for you to find out, if you really wanted to know.

2. You must never have been to an airport.

Mottramdo said...

Very interesting...thanks!

Glen Dyer said...

This is an great humanitarian story. It is an far better campaign booster than George Washington's cherry tree. I wish I had seen this before the election. Although raised in an democratic family, I was an avid Ron Paul suporter and hearing that McCain was the lesser of two evils I felt the lesser was a foot in the door for all evil. I may well have voted Obamma instead of an write-in. I also feel this story an great post-election public moral booster. It does matter and this is not a small story.

Tanev said...

hi , nice information. I recentry read ur blog. Greetings from me

fornls said...

Good story. How did you find this from the newspapers.

Egy Azziera said...

First off we would like to congratulate you on your fine public speaking skills. It looks like those who said the Obama Administration would strike while the iron is hot may have been correct, and the Administration may be doing it in a way that does not require them to even get a vote in Congress.

Kingnot08 said...

They should change the song Sweet home Alabama to Sweet Home Obama hehe..


Dipometric Consult said...

This is an amazing story of what the world can become if we take one step at a time to look outside of ourselves, and see beyond color, age, gender and status, to touch someone. If we touch someone at a time, before you know it, the world would be touched by a collective effort. The truth is, we touch someone everyday, but with what object, and to what end?

Michaels Aibangbee

Anonymous said...

Mary was on Norwegian TV channel NRK1 this morning. She told the story again. She said that she had been invited to the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony at the Oslo City Hall.

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing story, found it through stumbleupon... I can't belief so many people have put negative comments... all you did was translate the original story... Thank you.

(For the record, I liked him before I heard about this... he seems like a good man).

Family Blog said...


RS Gold said...

Wow. I'm a skeptic, so I possess problems assuming this specific, however it appears genuine enough, of course, if it can be, that's fairly damn neat.
And I perform just like Barak.

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