The young Obamas (Family album)
For editors and readers always on prowl for the local angle, here’s a historic presidential footnote in the making: Either the next president or vice president of the United States will be the progeny of a Washington high school graduate.
Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro, the late mother of Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama, is a 1960 graduate of Mercer Island High. Sally Sheeran Heath, the mom of Republican vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin, is a 1958 graduate of Columbia (now Richland) High.
Actually, considering GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s age and health, and with the media at times shaping it into more of an Obama-Palin presidential contest (she herself has referred to the “Palin-McCain” campaign), you might say the next president will owe his or her life to the Evergreen State. Just don’t forget us when the earmarks come around.
There’s more. Sarah Palin’s husband, First Dude Todd, is the son of Seattle native Jim Palin, who moved to Alaska in 1960. Todd’s uncle Ted is a retired Longview businessman, while Sarah’s aunt, Katie Johnson, lives in the Tri-Cities.
Still more. Obama's mother, whose parents Madelyn and Stanley Dunham had moved here from Kansas a decade earlier, left Mercer Island in 1960.But she returned to live in Seattle around 1962, after Barack was born in August 1961, leaving her husband, Kenya-born Barack Sr., and his newborn namesake in Hawaii. She lived on Capitol Hill and enrolled at the University of Washington.
According to various news reports and Obama’s biography, when Stanley Ann (her father wanted a son) returned to Hawaii after a half-year or so, she and Barack Sr. had already grown apart, and eventually split (the father died in 1982). “Ann” went on to become an anthropologist, later remarried, and, with help in particular from her mother Madelyn in Hawaii, successfully raised a child who, according to polls, will become the first black American president. She died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at age 52.
The Heaths today (Spokesman-Review)
Sally Sheeran Heath, 67, married Idaho-born Chuck Heath who had attended Columbia Basin College in Pasco. They’re both retired in Alaska. (Sally’s parents, Clem and Helen Sheeran moved to Richland in 1943, lured by work at the Hanford bomb-making reservation). Sally and Chuck eventually moved to Idaho where Sarah Heath, future beauty queen, barracuda hoopster, Idaho grad, and serial-winking governor, was born in 1964.
Considering that Palin’s family and background are rooted in the Red side of the state, while Obama’s maternal past comes from the Blue side, Nov. 4 might be the ultimate face-off between politically divided eastern and western Washington, a sort of Apple Cup for the White House. Winner goes to D.C. Loser goes back to Alaska.