Barack Obama's 'struggling mom' Rebekah Erler was once a Democratic organizer | Daily Mail Online

By MailOnline Reporter

Published: 16:02 EST, 21 January 2015 | Updated: 17:53 EST, 21 January 2015




The mother of two whose letter to Obama about her family's financial woes won her a place of honor at the president's State of the Union Address on Monday also happens to be a former Democratic field organizer.

Rebekah Erler, 37, told the president of her and her husband's struggles last year. Obama then traveled to Minneapolis to spend a much publicized June'day in the life' of a typical American.

Sometime prior to the trip, Erler worked as a 'field organizer' for Democratic Senator from Washington Patty Murray.

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Interesting work history: Seen here with Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, Minnesota mother of two Rebekah Erler was invited to the SOTU after writing a letter to the president last year. She's also reportedly a former Democratic field organizer

Reuters uncovered this from Erler's LinkedIn profile back in June after the president's Minneapolis trip.

Now, with Erler back in the spotlight, people are paying attention to her not-so-typical work history after Obama used her as an example of how things have improved for America's middle class under his leadership. 

'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 I ran for this office,' Obama said Tuesday night.

Erler was among among 22 people whose whose stories of tragedy or triumph highlight an issue or public policy and who were invited to the State of the Union by the White House. 

Middle class mother-of-two inspires Obama's SOTU with letter

Erler, center left, was among over 20 Americans invited to the SOTU address by the White House. Her LinkedIn indicates she was a field organizer for Democratic Senator from Washington Patty Murray


Obama told Rebekah story as part of his 2015 State of the Union address

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, 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 I ran for this office. You're 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's been your effort and resilience that has made it possible for our country to emerge stronger...

...Because families like Rebekah's still need our help. She and Ben are working as hard as ever, but have to forego vacations and a new car so they can pay off student loans and save for retirement. 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.

President Ronald Reagan was the first to do so in 1982 and acknowledge the guests during the speech. Every president since has carried on the tradition, and lawmakers increasingly are bringing guests, too. Among their guests are several Cuban activists, former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who is afflicted with Lou Gehrig's disease, and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio.

Gross, a former federal subcontractor, was freed from Cuba last month as part of Obama's historic announcement that the United States would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Kelly, of Houston, is preparing to blast off in March on a yearlong space mission, the longest of any U.S. astronaut. His twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Giffords was gravely wounded during a shooting at a political event she held in Tucson four years ago. Scientists will compare medical data from the Kelly brothers to study how the human body responds to longer durations in space.

Before the State of the Union address, the Erler family visited the White House and posed for a selfie 

CVS Health pulled cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products from its store shelves last year, a move that was applauded by Obama, a former smoker. The decision earned Merlo, the drugstore chain's top executive, a seat in the first lady's box for the speech.

The letter-writers, as identified by the White House, are:

— Malik Bryant, of Chicago. The 13-year-old wrote a letter to Santa over the holidays asking for safety. Instead of forwarding the letter to the North Pole, a nonprofit organization redirected it to the White House. Obama wrote back to say that security was a priority for him, too. 

— Victor Fugate, of Kansas City. Fugate told Obama how he went from being an unemployed new father to getting his degree and helping low-income patients obtain medical care. Fugate says he and his wife are benefiting from an Obama program that caps monthly student loan payments. Obama met Fugate in Kansas City last year.

— Retired Army Staff Sgt. Jason Gibson, of Westerville, Ohio. Gibson wrote to thank the president for visiting him as he recovered from injuries, including the loss of both legs. Gibson surfs, skis, has completed marathons on a hand cycle and earned a pilot's license. He became a father in November.

— Katrice Mubiru, of Woodland Heights, California. Mubiru, a career-technical education teacher in Los Angeles, encouraged Obama in a letter to support K-12 adult and career technical education. She introduced Obama last year when he visited Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to promote technical skills programs.

Obama had already met Erler. He visited her in June after a much-publicized 'day in the life' of an average American trip he made to Minnesota

Rebekah Erler and her husband Ben Erler watch as US President Barack Obama speaks on stage on the economy at the Lake Harriet Band Shell in Minneapolis in June

— Astrid Muhammad, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Muhammad, a wife and mother of two, wrote to thank Obama for signing the Affordable Care Act. She obtained coverage under the law last year and had surgery to remove a potentially fatal brain tumor that was diagnosed when she had no health insurance.

— Carolyn Reed, of Denver. Reed described for Obama how she expanded her submarine sandwich shop business with a government loan. Obama dined last year with Reed and other Coloradans who wrote to him. Reed also told the president she was raising her hourly employees' wages to $10.10.

— Ana Zamora, of Dallas. A student at Northwood University, Zamora was brought to the United States illegally as a child and has benefited under Obama's program to defer deportations for eligible immigrants. Zamora wrote Obama about her experience and says her parents will also be eligible for protection under his recent executive actions on immigration.

The remaining guests are:

— Chelsey Davis, of Knoxville, Tennessee. Davis is scheduled to graduate in May from Pellissippi State Community College. She met Obama when he visited her school this month to announce a plan to pay for two years of community college for students who keep up their grades.

— LeDaya Epps, of Compton, California. The mother of three completed a union apprenticeship in construction and is on the crew building the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line. Obama has promoted apprenticeships as a way for people to get training for skilled jobs.

— Nicole Hernandez Hammer, of southeast Florida. The sea-level researcher studies how cities and other areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change also have large Hispanic populations. She works to raise Latinos' awareness of climate change. Obama has taken steps to address climate change.

It was Erler’s letter about her family’s financial struggles which prompted Obama to fly to Minnesota last June to met her

— Anthony Mendez, of New York City. The University of Hartford freshman once had to rise at 4:30 a.m. to get to school after his family was evicted and living in a homeless shelter hours away. Mendez was among students who met Mrs. Obama last year. She spearheads an initiative encouraging students to pursue education after high school.

— Kathy Pham, of Washington, D.C. Pham is a government computer scientist who works to improve health information technology, expand access to benefits for veterans and improve how government provides services.

— Capt. Phillip C. Tingirides, of Irvine, California. A husband and father of six, the veteran Los Angeles police officer heads the Community Safety Partnership program in the neighborhood of Watts, once scarred by race riots and subsequent gang violence. Police engage with residents under the program.

— Catherine Pugh, of Baltimore. Pugh is majority leader of the Maryland Senate and helped pass legislation increasing the state minimum wage to $10.10. She has also introduced legislation to provide workers with earned paid sick leave. Both are issues Obama is pushing at the federal level.

— Dr. Pranav Shetty, of Washington, D.C. Shetty is the global emergency health coordinator for International Medical Corps, a partner in the U.S.-backed effort to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Shetty went to Liberia in August, returned to the U.S. last month and heads back to West Africa this week.

— Prophet Walker, of Carson, California. While serving time for robbery, Walker started a prison program to help fellow inmates earn a two-year degree. After prison, he became a construction engineer and has worked to improve relations among law enforcement, community activists, parents and the children of local housing projects.

— Tiairris Woodward, of Warren, Michigan. Woodward started a second job working on Chrysler's assembly line in 2010 to help support herself and three children, including one with special needs. She eventually began working only for Chrysler and after a year had saved enough money to buy a car and rent a new apartment. The company's tuition assistance program is aiding her pursuit of a bachelor's degree in business management. The White House says her story is possible due to the comeback of Detroit and the U.S. auto industry. 

Mom-of-two Rebekah Erler was among 22 invited guests who sat with Michelle Obama at Tuesday's State of the Union address


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