Thursday, October 09, 2008

Finally a way to connect politics and Norway!!!

So it's almost 1:00 in the morning. I am blog-surfing, reading all kinds of things on all kinds of sites, hopping from one to another without paying a lot of attention to where I am or how I got there.

When I find this story:

ÅSGÅRDSTRAND (VG) Mary had just gotten married, and was making the move to Norway, when airport officials informed her that she did not have enough money for the flight. Then Barack Obama showed up, and paid for her.

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time, and had just gotten married to Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting her new life with him in Åsgårdstrand in western Norway. First, however, she had to bring her belongings with her to Norway. The date was November 2nd, 1988.

At the Miami airport things were hectic as usual, and check-in lines were long. When Mary's turn to check in her bags finally came, she was given the message that was to kill her feelings of joy.- You have to pay a surcharge of $103 if you want to bring both bags over to Norway, the man behind the counter informed her.

Mary didn't have any money. Her new husband had traveled ahead to Norway, and Mary didn't have anyone else to call.- I was devastated, and tried to go through, in my mind, which possessions I could do without. But I'd already filled both suitcases with my favorite things, Mary explains.

Though she explained the situation to the airline official, he showed no sign of mercy.- I started to cry; tears just ran down my face, and I was at my wits end. That's when I heard a kind and friendly voice behind me say; "I'll pay for her."Mary turned, and there was a tall, dark man she'd never seen before.

He had a kind and friendly voice, but with underlying authority. The first thought in my mind was "who is this man?"

Though it happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the air of authority surrounding the man. He was neatly and fashionably dressed, with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt with the top buttons undone and khaki pants, Mary remembers.

She was thrilled to be able to bring both cases with her to Norway, and assured the stranger that she would give him his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a slip of paper, and handed it to Mary, who thanked him again and again. When she finally left for security, he waved her goodbye.

Knight in Shining Armour
On the note was the name "Barack Obama," and his address in Kansas, his mother's home state. Mary carried the note in her wallet for years, before throwing it away. He was my knight in shining armour, after all, Mary says, smiling.

She paid Obama back the $103 the day after she arrived in Norway. At the time, Obama had just left his low paying job as a community organizer in Chicago, and was studying law at the prestigious Harvard University.

In the spring of 2006, Mary's parents had gotten word that Obama was considering running for president, but that he had not yet decided. They decided to write him a letter to let him know he had their vote, at the same time thanking him for having helped their daughter 18 years ago.

In a letter to Mary's parents dated May 4th 2006, and postmarked "United States Senate, Washington DC," Barack Obama writes:"I would like to thank you for your kind words, and for reminding me of the incident at the airport in Miami. I was glad to be of help at the time, and I'm happy to hear that your daughter is doing well in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States Senator."Her parents sent the letter on to Mary.

This week, VG met Mary and her husband at the café she runs in Åsgårdstrand with her friend Lisbet Tollefsrud. It's amazing to think that the man who helped me 20 years ago might become the next president of the United States, Mary says, delightedly.

She has already voted for Obama, and recently supported his campaign with $100.She often relates her Miami airport story, both when issues of race are discussed, and when talking about the presidential election.

I sincerely hope Americans will see sense, and understand that Obama means change, Mary says.

(the Norwegian newspaper accounting is here, if any of you are up to trying to read paa norsk. I did, and the translation is accurate.)


My guy did a nice thing for someone moving to Norway. All is good in the world.

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