It must have been especially hard because President Obama’s mom, Ann Dunham, died from cancer at the young age of 52. During her lifetime, she’d set a strong work example for him with a career as an American anthropologist specializing in the economic anthropology and rural development of Indonesia. Obama was only 34 when she died and working on a busy rising career. Dickerson said Obama’s words struck a cord with him. During the years that his mom was sick, Dickerson called her daily. He mended broken fences, he learned things he never knew before about her life, and he absorbed her resiliency, to use later in his life.