HAMMOND | Carolyn Curiel and Dale Pupillo have ties to the White House in their careers.
When Curiel — a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later an ambassador to Belize — and Pupillo — a longtime agent with the Secret Service who most recently was a part of Vice President Joe Biden’s security detail — discussed their lives Tuesday, they seemed more interested in telling people where they came from.
Curiel is an East Chicago native whose family later moved to Hammond, while Pupillo was born in Gary and his family later moved to Merrillville.
“There is an American story we have in each of us,” Curiel said of people from the Calumet Region.
She and Pupillo said the region benefits from a significant ethnic and racial mix of people.
“Diversity was ‘in’ here before it was ‘in’ anywhere else,” Pupillo said during the appearance he and Curiel made at Purdue University Calumet.
They spoke in the morning to political science classes, and later in the day to the public.
Curiel recalled her father working in the steel mills and often inviting co-workers to dinner. Rarely did they share Curiel’s Mexican ethnic origins.
“He would bring the United Nationals home at times, and they were all co-workers at the steel mills,” she said.
Pupillo said he gains one advantage from the many ethnicities he encountered being from Northwest Indiana.
“No matter where I go in the world, I can pronounce the names of the people who live there,” he said.
Despite the fact they have encountered many names in politics during their careers, about the only official either of them talked about in any detail was then-presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
Even then, their interest was because they recalled their encounters with him when he visited Northwest Indiana during his 1968 campaign.
For Pupillo, he was helping his father on the job when he happened to notice a commotion at the railroad crossing where traffic was blocked by a passing freight train.
The commotion was Kennedy, stuck at a train, but using the opportunity to meet potential voters. Pupillo got to shake his hand.
Curiel was at a gymnasium in East Chicago where Kennedy was supposed to speak, but was delayed because of those freight trains.
To this day, she recalls the Kennedy promise when he finally arrived that caught the attention of the crowd — a promise to build railroad overpasses over all of the region.
“We don’t know what would have happened if he had lived, if he had been elected,” Curiel said. “He was able to connect with us. Bobby was like our saint.”