– A 36-year-old Minneapolis mother of two was prominently featured by President Obama in his State of the Union address. He called her family’s story “the reason I ran for this office” before pitching a score of tax reform and domestic policy proposals Tuesday.

Rebekah Erler was discovered last year when she wrote an eloquent letter to the president describing her middle-class struggles: She and her husband, Ben, moved to Minnesota after Ben’s business was crushed by the housing crash in Seattle. Rebekah took out student loans to go to local community college so she could become an accountant. They were doing OK in Minneapolis, they both had jobs, they had recently purchased a new house in St. Anthony, they had two healthy kids.

But, Rebekah wrote, costs of child care, groceries and day-to-day living was getting the better of the family. She decided to write the president. “I think after a long day, that night she sat down and just wanted to say something,” her husband told the Star Tribune at the time.

The letter resonated with Obama. He flew to Minneapolis last June and took Rebekah Erler to lunch at Matt’s bar in south Minneapolis during a two-day stay in the Twin Cities that included a couple of other speeches.

On Tuesday, in front of a joint session of Congress, he recounted the Erlers’ story. Rebekah was sitting in the first lady’s box. She had some time in the Oval Office Tuesday with a few other letter writers, and hung out with the president.

“We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times,” Obama said. “America, Rebekah and Ben’s story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped and sacrificed and retooled … You’re the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the [economic] crisis.”


Allison Sherry