Student Obama helped stranded stranger 20 years ago

Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a heart-warming story about a newly-wed trying to get home to a Scandinavian country to be with her husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge. The blog Leisha's Random Thoughts has translated the tale.

It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long haul flight to Norway to be with her husband when the airline representative informed her that she wouldn't be able to check-in her luggage without paying a 100 surcharge:

When it was Mary's turn in the queue, 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 for help.

"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.

As tears streamed down her face, she heard a "gentle and friendly voice" behind her saying, "That's okay, I'll pay for her." Mary turned around to look at 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?" she added.

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", said 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.

Who was the man?

Barack Obama.

Twenty years later, she is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next American president and, as a US citizen, has voted for him already and donated 100 dollars to his campaign:

"He was my knight in shining armour", said 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.

Mary even convinced her US-based parents to vote for him:

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.

And Obama replied:

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.

Mary says that when her friends and associates talk about the election, especially when race relations is the heated subject, she relates the story of the kind young man who helped out a stranger-in-need more than 20 years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office.

It is an inspiring story about Obama and something that needs to be made public in the maelstorm of fear-and-smear politics to which American voters are being subjected right now by desperate supporters of his Republican rival for the presidency, John McCain.