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December 16, 2009

Health Care Reform: Even Without The Public Option It’s BETTER Than What We Have Now!!!

With all the Health Care Reform brouhaha about losing the public option (which I want 100 %!) it may seem that we Democrats are losing the Health Care Reform battle – that’s not true.  Don’t believe the hype.

No,  we are not getting everything we want (neither is anyone else) but the chances of us getting everything we wanted with hundreds of law makers voting in Congress and needing 60 votes in the Senate was never realistic…it wasn’t going to happen; not ever.  There are too many politicians with specific political interests and geographical interests to make any one group or region completely happy.

But let us not forget the prize — Health Care Reform.  Let us re-focus. I know we’re in the middle of Hanukkah and Christmas is next week but we must get this done.

Even without the public option an additional 33 million Americans will receive health care benefits – we want that.  Even without the public option all insurance companies will legally have to cover you and me and our families and friends and neighbors regardless of pre-existing conditions – we want that.  We have NEVER had that in American health care before.  That is major!!! That is worth it to me. Plus there are other benefits even without the public option.

Don’t forget that when Health Care Reform is passed it WILL be tweaked in the upcoming months and even years to come so that things that seem to be lost now can be added later

The important thing is to PASS HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW so that we have a foundation to build on; we can always make the bill better later.  If we don’t pass Health Care Reform now the precedence will be set that says we really don’t care about Health Care Reform and we will probably never see health care pass in the next 30 years — we can’t wait 30 more years!!!  Remember that this fight has been going on for over 60 years!!!  This is the closest we have ever been so let’s get this done in 2009.

Please contact your elected officials and tell them to PASS AMERICA’S HEALTH CARE REFORM BILL BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!!

You’ll find links to e-mail, tweet, postal addresses, and phone numbers for key elected officials from our President to State Legislators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.  All you have to do is enter your zip code and your elected officials’ information will pop up.

Keep your eyes on the prize.  Call your elected officials today!!!

Happy Holidays!

December 3, 2009

Economy: Why NOW May Be A Good Time To Refinance A Mortgage

Why Now May Be a Good Time to Consider Refinancing a Mortgage

By JENNIFER SARANOW SCHULTZ

 

With mortgage rates hitting record lows, it may be time to think about refinancing.

The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage with no points hit 5.01 this week, slightly up from 5 percent last week but down from 5.97 percent this time last year, and the 15-year fixed mortgage rate hit 4.46 percent, compared with 4.47 percent last week, according to the latest data released Wednesday from Bankrate.com. These rates are at, or close to, the lowest levels since the company’s tracking began in 1985.

At the same time, the Mortgage Bankers Association said interest rates on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgages it tracks fell for a sixth straight week, remaining below the 5 percent level, “widely viewed as a psychological tipping point” according to this article.

The record lows are thanks to a combination of the Federal Reserve showing no inclination to raise short-term interest rates and investors and foreign central banks maintaining a healthy appetite for debt issued or guaranteed by the United States government, said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst. And they come as many homeowners are finding themselves owing more than their house is worth and are having trouble making mortgage payments.

There is also a limited-time government program that helps people to refinance if they are slightly underwater. The “Home Affordable Refinance Program” is not as widely discussed as the related loan modification program. And it has been criticized by some housing experts for helping financial players profit. Still, it aims to help homeowners who have a mortgage balance equal to or greater than the value of their home refinance and obtain more affordable monthly mortgage payments.

The program is available until June of next year to homeowners who meet certain qualifications, including having loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and having a first mortgage that does not exceed 125 percent of the current market value of the home. (See if you qualify and find out how to apply if you do here).

With the risk that rates may not stay this low for long and that the government program will end, “there is a window of opportunity” for refinancing that will not be available for long, Mr. McBride said. He recommended that those who think they may not qualify for the program to double check what their home is worth to confirm this. Then, even if you don’t ultimately qualify, he suggested considering trying to refinance anyway if you are paying a higher rate on a fixed-rate mortgage or have an adjustable-rate mortgage.

“Today’s record low mortgage rates represent an opportunity for homeowners to refinance at lower fixed rates or to trade out of an adjustable rate mortgage before an inevitable increase in rates and lock in permanent payment affordability,” he said.

Are you considering refinancing in this environment? Why or why not? If so, what kinds of problems and hurdles, if any, have you run into trying to refinance? (Find more information about mortgages here and more information about loan modifications here).

Original link: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/why-now-may-be-a-good-time-to-consider-refinancing-a-mortgage/

November 29, 2009

Economy: Obama Wants Mortgage Firms to Reduce More Loan Payments

The Obama administration in a proactive move plans to announce a campaign on Monday, November 30 to pressure mortgage companies to reduce payments for many more troubled homeowners since the $75 billion taxpayer-financed effort aimed at slowing down foreclosures is stalling.

In an interview the Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Michael Barr said: “The banks are not doing a good enough job. Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed, and they will be.”

In recent months even as lenders have accelerated the pace at which they are reducing mortgage payments for borrowers a vast majority of loans modified through the program remain in a trial stage lasting up to only five months but only a tiny fraction of loans have been made permanent.

Mr. Barr said the government would try to use shame as a corrective, publicly naming those institutions that move too slowly to permanently lower mortgage payments. The Treasury Department also will wait until reductions are permanent before paying cash incentives that it promised to mortgage companies that lower loan payments. “They’re not getting a penny from the federal government until they move forward,” Mr. Barr said.

Lawyers who defend homeowners against foreclosure insist that mortgage companies amass ridiculously profitable fees from long-term delinquencies and that is more beneficial to them than lowering mortgage payments to affordable levels. In October an oversight panel created by Congress reported that less than 2,000 of the 500,000 loan modifications being processed had become permanent under the Making Home Affordable program. When the Treasury releases new numbers next month, it is expected to report a disappointingly small number of permanent loan modifications, with estimates in the tens of thousands out of the more than 650,000 borrowers now in the program.

Even as our economy tries to find its footing the Treasury department is under pressure to help every day Americans who should have been helped by the banks and financial institutions who benefited from the bailouts on Wall Street.  These financial institutions seem not to feel that they have any moral responsibility to help the hundreds of thousands of households falling into delinquency daily because of the economy and high unemployment numbers. These financial institutions are reporting massive profits but are not helping everyday Americans – they are lining only their own pockets.

The administration’s Making Home Affordable program was put into operation as a means of helping three to four million households from foreclosure but because of the greed of some financial institutions it seems that only 50% of those households will receive the help they should have received. The Obama administration is trying to outwit the financial institutions they helped by publicly putting pressure on these institutions to do what they promised to do.  A White House aide said that they will continue to refine the program as needed and will not be satisfied until more program participants are transitioned from trial to permanent mortgage modifications.

November 4, 2009

I’ve Got The Seasonal Flu…Yeah?!

Cough and Sneeze

It started way early this year. Walking around coughing. Runny nose. Deep congestion. Unsettled stomach.  Waking up at 3am and not being able to fall back asleep.  Despite the make-up I was wearing, I looked sick but I didn’t have a severe fever.  Yes I had muscle aches and chills and went from hot to cold in a nanosecond and a temperature higher than 98.6 but I didn’t have a severe fever.

I live in Florida so usually the flu doesn’t hit us until February – not this year; the flu came early.

Everyone who looked at me, and saw me blowing my nose, or coughing, probably thought I had the swine flu. I stopped at a local pharmacy and bought cough drops, aspirin and two different types of flu and cold medicine, as well as a large carton of orange juice. As the cashier saw me approaching, her eyes got big. She began to hesitate — as if she didn’t want me to approach her register. I could tell she thought I had the swine flu.

I tried to comfort her — telling her it was simply a pre-emptive strike. I said I was fine, but simply had a sore throat. I said I wanted to start drinking orange juice early just to play it safe. I doubt she fell for anything I said.

It seems like the different viruses, colds and other bad bug strains out there may be packing a little bit more punch this year. Most folks who get sick now automatically assume they’ve got the swine flu. I did, and it was kind of scary. I even went to the ATM machine and took out money — fearing I could end up in the hospital in a matter of hours.  Don’t ask the logic behind that thinking.

Since we don’t usually see a full blown outbreak of the seasonal flu in Florida until February health officials believe most of the influenza activity we are seeing right now is H1N1, and not the seasonal flu. So we could be looking at a double dose of flu activity this year. Swine flu now and seasonal flu later this winter. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but things are certainly off to a bad start.

It’s starting to look like we are in for a long and rough flu season. I’ve got my hand sanitizer ready. I’m sick now and I have no desire to get sick again.

The 2009 virus circulating the world isn’t strictly swine flu; rather, it’s a mix of swine, avian and human influenza that has never been seen before in humans. In the upcoming months, we’ll be dealt the double whammy of seasonal flu season and a potential second wave of swine flu.

Some people already have enough trouble determining if they have a cold or the flu; the symptoms are similar, although the flu’s symptoms are a bit more intense. But it may be especially difficult to know if you have swine flu or seasonal flu, since the symptoms are extremely similar. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Swine flu patients also report diarrhea and vomiting, not usually present in seasonal flu.

A laboratory test is the only way to confirm a case of swine flu, but few tests have been done as most swine flu cases thus far look like a bout with seasonal flu. Many people recover without needing any medication or hospitalization, and some might not even know they’re ill. The mild nature of swine flu has led some to question why there needs to be any worry, as deaths have been far less than those attributable to seasonal flu.

However, because the current H1N1 influenza is completely new and no one has immunity, public health officials warn that swine flu could eventually cause more complications than seasonal flu does. Not only will there be more complications, they’ll likely be more serious. So far, doctors have reported that swine flu is more likely to result in viral pneumonia, as opposed to bacterial pneumonia often seen in seasonal flu cases; the bacterial version is much easier to treat than the viral kind.

Even if you don’t know if you have swine flu or seasonal flu, head to the doctor if you start to experience symptoms that aren’t part of a typical flu experience; these may be the warning signs of serious swine flu complications. That means everyone needs to remain vigilant about their health in the coming months.

Because swine flu and seasonal flu are transmitted in the same way, everyone should be on watch when it comes to prevention. Cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often, stop touching other people’s stuff in the office, don’t touch that door handle, stop talking in other people’s face and stay home when you’re sick. Whether you have seasonal or swine flu, you’ll be doing everyone around you a favor.

I’m GLAD that I don’t have the ‘swine’ — just a bad case of the good old seasonal flu which takes about five to ten days to shake — according to the doctor.

October 29, 2009

President Obama Honors Fallen American War Heroes At Dover

President Obama Downed Soldiers 10 29 09

As he weighs whether or not to send more troops into the Afghan war zone, late last night President Barack Obama made a solemn trip to Dover Air Force Base to honor some of our fallen soldiers by being there personally to greet the 18 flag-draped caskets of young American soldiers killed in action this week.

When he arrived in Dover, Delaware our President travelled directly to a base chapel where he met privately with families of the fallen Americans. Former President George W. Bush visited the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers but did not attend any military funerals or go to Dover to receive the coffins.

The Dover base is about 100 miles from the White House and is the entry point for service personnel killed overseas.

October 9, 2009

President Obama — Nobel Peace Prize Winner!

Obama Nobel  This morning, while most Americans slept the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway announced that President Barack Hussein Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.  The Nobel Committee awarded this honor to President Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The committee also pointed out our President’s efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, “He has created a new international climate, the committee said.

There are many cynics who choose to pretend that they are naïve by saying that our President does not deserve this honor.  I disagree.  Our world has been in a state of turmoil with the potential of war bubbling to the surface in the Middle East and Asia for the past several years.  Our President was courageous enough to go to South America, Egypt and Africa and Europe and speak peace to the world.  He did the same thing at the United Nations.  By his words and actions he has smoothed the feathers of leaders and put out fires that could easily be ignited in the East and West from North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il to Cuba’s Raul Castro to Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Whether the cynics want to believe it or not, the fact is, our world is safer because of President Barack Obama and therefore this honor bestowed upon him is not premature.

Which other world leader has put their reputation on the line and has spoken peace and responsibility to the world in this bold manner?

Obama Nobel  Today in the Rose Garden President Obama said he was “surprised and deeply humbled” by the committee’s decision, and quickly put to rest any speculation that he might not accept the honor. Describing the award as an “affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations,” he said he would accept it as a “call to action.” 

Here are President Obama’s own words:

OBAMA: Good morning. Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, “Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday!” And then Sasha added, “Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.” So it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize — men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build — a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.

These challenges can’t be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that’s why my administration has worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek. We cannot tolerate a world in which nuclear weapons spread to more nations and in which the terror of a nuclear holocaust endangers more people. And that’s why we’ve begun to take concrete steps to pursue a world without nuclear weapons, because all nations have the right to pursue peaceful nuclear power, but all nations have the responsibility to demonstrate their peaceful intentions.

We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children — sowing conflict and famine; destroying coastlines and emptying cities. And that’s why all nations must now accept their share of responsibility for transforming the way that we use energy.

We can’t allow the differences between peoples to define the way that we see one another, and that’s why we must pursue a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.

And we must all do our part to resolve those conflicts that have caused so much pain and hardship over so many years, and that effort must include an unwavering commitment that finally realizes that the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own.

We can’t accept a world in which more people are denied opportunity and dignity that all people yearn for — the ability to get an education and make a decent living; the security that you won’t have to live in fear of disease or violence without hope for the future.

And even as we strive to seek a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and prosperity is widely shared, we have to confront the world as we know it today. I am the commander in chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies. I’m also aware that we are dealing with the impact of a global economic crisis that has left millions of Americans looking for work. These are concerns that I confront every day on behalf of the American people.

Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency. Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration — it’s about the courageous efforts of people around the world.

And that’s why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity — for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometimes their lives for the cause of peace.

That has always been the cause of America. That’s why the world has always looked to America. And that’s why I believe America will continue to lead.

Thank you very much.

Congratulations President Obama!

October 7, 2009

Michelle Obama’s Roots — A Complex Path From Slavery

Fraser and Marian Robinson with Craig and Michelle

In First Lady’s Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery

By RACHEL L. SWARNS and JODI KANTOR

WASHINGTON — In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475.

In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time.

In the annals of American slavery, this painful story would be utterly unremarkable, save for one reason: This union, consummated some two years before the Civil War, marked the origins of a family line that would extend from rural Georgia, to Birmingham, Ala., to Chicago and, finally, to the White House.

Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Viewed by many as a powerful symbol of black advancement, Mrs. Obama grew up with only a vague sense of her ancestry, aides and relatives said. During the presidential campaign, the family learned about one paternal great-great-grandfather, a former slave from South Carolina, but the rest of Mrs. Obama’s roots were a mystery.

Now the more complete map of Mrs. Obama’s ancestors — including the slave mother, white father and their biracial son, Dolphus T. Shields — for the first time fully connects the first African-American first lady to the history of slavery, tracing their five-generation journey from bondage to a front-row seat to the presidency.

The findings — uncovered by Megan Smolenyak, a genealogist, and The New York Times — substantiate what Mrs. Obama has called longstanding family rumors about a white forebear.

While President Obama’s biracial background has drawn considerable attention, his wife’s pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans. Mrs. Obama and her family declined to comment for this article, aides said, in part because of the personal nature of the subject.

“She is representative of how we have evolved and who we are,” said Edward Ball, a historian who discovered that he had black relatives — the descendants of his white slave-owning ancestors — when he researched his memoir, “Slaves in the Family.”

“We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America,” Mr. Ball said. “We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”

The outlines of Mrs. Obama’s family history unfolded from 19th century probate records, yellowing marriage licenses, fading photographs and the recollections of elderly women who remember the family. Ms. Smolenyak, who has traced the ancestry of many prominent figures, began studying the first lady’s roots in earnest after conducting some preliminary research into Mrs. Obama’s ancestry for an article published in The New York Times earlier this year.

Of the dozens of relatives she identified, Ms. Smolenyak said, it was the slave girl who seemed to call out most clearly.

“Out of all Michelle’s roots, it’s Melvinia who is screaming to be found,” she said.

When her owner, David Patterson, died in 1852, Melvinia soon found herself on a 200-acre farm with new masters, Mr. Patterson’s daughter and son-in law, Christianne and Henry Shields. It was a strange and unfamiliar world.

In South Carolina, she had lived on an estate with 21 slaves. In Georgia, she was one of only three slaves on property that is now part of a neat subdivision in Rex, near Atlanta.

Whether Melvinia labored in the house or in the fields, there was no shortage of work: wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and cotton to plant and harvest, and 3 horses, 5 cows, 17 pigs and 20 sheep to care for, according to an 1860 agricultural survey.

It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm as well.

“No one should be surprised anymore to hear about the number of rapes and the amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery; it was an everyday experience, “ said Jason A. Gillmer, a law professor at Texas Wesleyan University, who has researched liaisons between slave owners and slaves. “But we do find that some of these relationships can be very complex.”

In 1870, three of Melvinia’s four children, including Dolphus, were listed on the census as mulatto. One was born four years after emancipation, suggesting that the liaison that produced those children endured after slavery. She gave her children the Shields name, which may have hinted at their paternity or simply been the custom of former slaves taking their master’s surnames.

Even after she was freed, Melvinia stayed put, working as a farm laborer on land adjacent to that of Charles Shields, one of Henry’s sons.

But sometime in her 30s or 40s, census records show, Melvinia broke away and managed to reunite with former slaves from her childhood on the Patterson estate: Mariah and Bolus Easley, who settled with Melvinia in Bartow County, near the Alabama border. Dolphus married one of the Easleys’ daughters, Alice, who is Mrs. Obama’s great-great-grandmother.

A community “that had been ripped apart was somehow pulling itself back together,” Ms. Smolenyak said of the group in Bartow County.

Still, Melvinia appears to have lived with the unresolved legacy of her childhood in slavery until the very end. Her 1938 death certificate, signed by a relative, says “don’t know” in the space for the names of her parents, suggesting that Melvinia, then in her 90s, may never have known herself.

Sometime before 1888, Dolphus and Alice Shields continued the migration, heading to Birmingham, a boomtown with a rumbling railroad, an iron and steel industry and factories that attracted former slaves and their children from across the South.

Dolphus Shields was in his 30s and very light skinned — some say he looked like a white man — a church-going carpenter who could read, write and advance in an industrializing town. By 1900, he owned his own home, census records show. By 1911, he had opened his own carpentry and tool sharpening business.

A co-founder of First Ebenezer Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist Church, which later became active in the civil rights movement, he supervised Sunday schools at both churches, which still exist today, and at Regular Missionary Baptist Church.

“He was the dean of the deacons in Birmingham,” said Helen Heath, 88, who attended church with him. “He was a serious man. He was about business.”

He carried his family into the working-class, moving into a segregated neighborhood of striving black homeowners and renters. In his home, there was no smoking, no cursing, no gum chewing, no lipstick or trousers for ladies and absolutely no blues on the radio, which was reserved for hymns, remembered Bobbie Holt, 73, who was raised by Mr. Shields and his fourth wife, Lucy. She said the family went to church “every night of the week, it seemed like.”

He carried peppermints for neighborhood children, Mrs. Holt said, and told funny stories about his escapades as a boy. But his family struggled.

His first wife, Alice Easley Shields, moved around after they split up, working as a seamstress and a maid, and two of their sons stumbled.

Robert Lee Shields, Mrs. Obama’s great-grandfather, married Annie Lawson in 1906 and worked as a laborer and a railroad porter, but disappeared from the public record sometime around his 32nd birthday.

Willie Arthur Shields, an inventor who obtained patents for improving dry cleaning operations, ended up working as a maintenance man, Mrs. Holt said.

As for his ancestry, Dolphus Shields didn’t talk about it.

“We got to the place where we didn’t want anybody to know we knew slaves; people didn’t want to talk about that,” said Mrs. Heath, who said she assumed he had white relatives because his skin color and hair texture “told you he had to be near white.”

At a time when blacks despaired at the intransigence and violence of whites who barred them from voting, from most city jobs, from whites-only restaurants and from owning property in white neighborhoods, Dolphus Shields served as a rare link between the deeply divided communities.

His carpentry shop stood in the white section of town, and he mixed easily and often with whites. “They would come to his shop and sit and talk,” Mrs. Holt said.

Dolphus Shields firmly believed race relations would improve. “It’s going to come together one day,” he often said, Mrs. Holt recalled.

By the time he died in 1950 at age 91, change was on the way. On June 9, 1950, the day that his obituary appeared on the front page of The Birmingham World, the black newspaper also ran a banner headline that read, “U.S. Court Bans Segregation in Diners and Higher Education.” The Supreme Court had outlawed separate but equal accommodations on railway cars and in universities in Texas and Oklahoma.

Up North, his grandson, a painter named Purnell Shields, Mrs. Obama’s grandfather, was positioning his family to seize the widening opportunities in Chicago.

But as his descendants moved forward, they lost touch with the past. Today, Dolphus Shields lies in a neglected black cemetery, where patches of grass grow knee-high and many tombstones have toppled.

Mrs. Holt, a retired nursing assistant, said he came to her in a dream last month. She dug up his photograph, never guessing that she would soon learn that Dolphus Shields was a great-great-grandfather of the first lady.

“Oh my God,” said Mrs. Holt, gasping at the news. “I always looked up to him, but I would never have imagined something like this. Praise God, we’ve come a long way.”

Jim Sherling contributed reporting from Rex, Ga. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

This article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/us/politics/08genealogy.html

 

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