Right out the gate, Minnesota was put in the spotlight during President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. The president used Minneapolis mother Rebekah Erler as an example of a "hardworking American" asking the government to "look for more ways to help families get ahead."
After writing him a letter last summer, ?Erler met the president at Matt's Bar? in south Minneapolis on the first stop of his "Day in the Life" tour, where he mentioned her numerous times in his speech at the Lake Harriet Bandshell.
Later, she was invited by the first lady to attend the State of the Union address along with other guests who have experienced triumph or tragedy.
"America, Rebekah and Ben's story is our story," Obama said in his SOTU speech. "They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and sacrificed and retooled."
Rebekah Erler SOTU transcript
"It begins with our economy. Seven years ago, Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis were newlyweds. She waited tables. He worked construction. Their first child, Jack, was on the way. They were young and in love in America. And it doesn't get much better than that. ‘If only we had known,' Rebekah wrote to me last spring, ‘what was about to happen to the housing and construction market.'
As the crisis worsened, Ben's business dried up, so he took what jobs he could find, even if they kept him on the road for long stretches of time. Rebekah took out student loans and enrolled in community college, and retrained for a new career. They sacrificed for each other. And slowly, it paid off. They bought their first home. They had a second son, Henry. Rebekah got a better job and then a raise. Ben is back in construction -- and home for dinner every night.
‘It is amazing,' Rebekah wrote, ‘what you can bounce back from when you have to…we are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.' We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.
America, Rebekah and Ben's story is our story. They represent the millions who have worked hard and scrimped, and sacrificed and retooled. You are the reason that I ran for this office. You are the people I was thinking of six years ago today, in the darkest months of the crisis, when I stood on the steps of this Capitol and promised we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation. And it has been your resilience, your effort that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger."
University of Minnesota shoutout
"Because families like Rebekah's still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but they've had to forego vacations and a new car so that they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. Friday night pizza, that's a big splurge. Basic childcare for Jack and Henry costs more than their mortgage, and almost as much as a year at the University of Minnesota. Like millions of hardworking Americans, Rebekah isn't asking for a handout, but she is asking that we look for more ways to help families get ahead."