WASHINGTON – Among the 10 letters from Americans that President Obama reads every night, the one from the St. Anthony mother stood out. It was poignant, well-written and touched on the daily struggles that the vast majority of middle-class Americans face: the pressure of feeling stretched, of balancing work and family and the costs of child care.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that the letter from Rebekah Erler inspired the president to launch a series of conversations around the country with regular middle-class Americans.
The accountant and 36-year-old mother of two wrote to the president about the ongoing financial struggles that she and her husband face despite the economic recovery. Her note made its way into the pile of 10 letters from Americans that Obama reads each night.
“It’s not unusual for the president to respond … to these letters,” Earnest said. “But he’s going to take it to the next level.”
When he lands in Minneapolis at noon Thursday, Obama will lunch one-on-one with Erler, who will later attend the 2 p.m. town hall at Minnehaha Park and also introduce him Friday morning at Lake Harriet Band Shell before he gives a speech on the economy.
Earnest declined to go into detail about what the president will say in remarks Thursday and Friday, but earlier this week Obama praised companies that featured workplace flexibility at a working families summit in Washington. The president has also applauded states — including Minnesota — for raising the minimum wage and called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
“The unifying principle is the idea that hard work should lead to a decent living,” Earnest said.
He said the Minnesota event — and others that will follow — is valuable for the president, who has made no secret of his desire to push out of the Washington bubble and converse with regular people.
“Seeing first-hand and speaking first-hand with middle-class families … is good feedback for the president,” Earnest said. “This is a pretty unique way of spending some time in the community of someone who wrote him a letter.”
Obama will overnight in Bloomington and also attend a fundraiser Thursday at the home of Sylvia and Samuel Kaplan in Minneapolis benefiting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Samuel Kaplan, a lawyer, was the Moroccan ambassador for Obama from 2009 to 2013.
Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken will fly out with the president on Air Force One. Staffers with both senators said they wanted to talk to the president about the recent flooding in Minnesota. Franken and Klobuchar will also attend official events Thursday and Friday with the president. The Friday speech is open to the public but all the tickets were given away Wednesday.
Other confirmed Democrats from the congressional delegation attending at least some of the events with Obama: Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Tim Walz, Rep. Betty McCollum and Rep. Keith Ellison. Rep. Collin Peterson will not go to any of them.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Allison Sherry • 202-383-6120