The 14-year-old diabetic who wanted to thank Obama

September 6, 2012

Thousands of people unable to see President Obama speak Thursday night at the Bank of America Stadium made plans to watch instead at in ballrooms, bars and restaurants.

But Anais Paterno, 14, couldn't get into any of those parties, so she sat in the Charlotte Convention Center curled up in the fetal position, with tears streaming down her face.

Her mother, Silvana, looked on helplessly, unable to get her daughter inside.

The mother and daughter woke up in Atlanta at 3 a.m. Thursday and drove four hours north to Charlotte.

Once they arrived, “We waited five hours downstairs and a guy got us one pass, for Anais, but she’s too young to go in by herself.”

According to her mother, Anais has diabetes and faced years of rejection from health-insurance companies unwilling to provide coverage.

“We are terrified if Mitt Romney comes,” Silvana said. “She’ll probably be denied insurance again. She has a preexisting condition.”

Speaking with a comprehension of health-care policy well beyond her years, Anais said she was grateful that Obama's health-care law would give her the protection she needed. 

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was little -- even if he’s not president and he’s really old -- I want to thank him in person," she said.

She remembered watching Obama’s 2008 acceptance speech: “I thought he had a lot of guts, because he spoke in front of everyone and seemed so confident, like he was sure of himself.”

“I hope he gets reelected,” she added.

But her hope of seeing the president in person Thursday night was denied.

Alerted to the situation, the Obama campaign reiterated its disappointment at having to move the location of Obama's speech.

"We took every possible measure to make sure that community credential holders could still participate in a variety of ways including by convening a watch party for thousands of volunteers at the convention center tonight," the campaign said in a statement. "Immediately upon learning of this situation, we began attempts to reach Anais and her mother to ensure they had an opportunity to watch the president's historic speech."

WATCH: Live from the DNC

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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