Elmwood Park woman meets president
Celeste Castillo got to meet President Obama after his speech at Hyde Park Academy. | Provided
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:51AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Life for Celeste Castillo hasn’t been easy.
Especially lately, when she needed medical attention championed the cause to the highest authority.
She has lived in Elmwood Park 12 years and immigrated to the United States from Guatemala 37 years ago.
During that time she’s never had health insurance, but fortunately has been able to receive medical treatment through Erie Family Health Center, in Chicago, where she is a member of the board of directors.
She recently spoke in favor of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform initiative in front of state officials, pointing out the positives behind providing affordable health insurance for citizens, which will provide her and others the opportunity to get health insurance for the first time.
Her speech and enthusiasm caught the attention of Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and she was invited to attend Obama’s Feb. 15 speech at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago and had the opportunity to talk to him briefly.
“I started crying,” she said. “I thought, ‘Who am I?’ I am just one of millions. I really didn’t feel like I deserved it.”
But the day of the president’s speech she found herself outside the school, waiting to enter. There, she was greeted by Quinn and when she took her seat it was one of the best in the house.
She had brought a ‘Thank You’ card to give to the president and her copy of his book ‘The Audacity of Hope’ hoping he would autograph it.
“It (seat) was only like five steps away from where the podium was,” she said. “Then he comes out and runs up to the podium and I am five steps away from him. I couldn’t put it into words. I would have never dreamed of this never, ever.”
“When he started speaking you could hear a pin drop,” she said. “Everybody was paying attention and listening to this man talk.”
Castillo said she was able to speak with him a bit afterwards as well. As the president greeted people after the speech he made his way toward Castillo.
“My heart was pounding so hard,” she said. “It was just amazing and then he is in front of me and then he shakes my hand.”
“‘And how are you?,’” she said he said to her.
Castillo had plenty to say, but made it quick when she met the president: “I am honored to be in your presence. I want to thank you from all of us who do not have insurance and that it’s not going to be a dream.”
Then he said. “Thank you.”
She was able to give him the ‘Thank You’ card and get the book autographed by him as well.
Castillo said the meeting is one she will never forget.
“I want my children to be able to see that we can dream high and if we work hard we can see our dreams come true,” she said. “Maybe not all of them but some of them. The secret to that is to never give up.”