Skip to main content

Obama highlights Minnesota mom's story in State of the Union


President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to promote an economic package he says will help America's middle class " long as politics don't get in the way," USA Today reports.

And he illustrated his message with the story of Minnesotan Rebekah Erler, who had written to him last year about her family's financial struggles.

In his first State of the Union message delivered before a Republican-controlled Congress, President Obama described the state of the union as strong and said the nation is ready to turn the page after years of financial hardship.

Erler (pictured below between first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president), a wife and mother of two from St. Anthony, caught the attention of the president with her eloquent letter – so much so that Obama invited her to have lunch with him when he visited Minneapolis in July.

She and her family were recently invited by the first lady to attend the Tuesday night speech.

Obama said the Erlers' story is “the reason I ran for this office” before touting a package of proposals that include raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, tax breaks for child care, free community college, and lower interest rates on mortgage insurance.

As the New York Times reports, Obama also called on Congress to pass new legislation stepping up the fight against the Islamic State "to show the world that we are united in this mission."

The Associated Press notes Obama appealed for "better politics" in Washington and pledged to work with Republicans, even while putting forth an agenda more likely to antagonize the new majority.

The most talked-about moment on social media was when the president briefly went off script and took a little jab at Republicans. Watch it here:

Read the transcript of Obama's speech here.

Here's the video and a transcript of the Republican response from U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

PolitiFact live-blogged the president's speech and Ernst's remarks, fact-checking along the way. Here's an archive of of their fact-checking.

Here are statements from some of Minnesota's congressional delegation reacting to the president's speech:

Sen. Al Franken, Democrat: “I was glad to see that the President put such a focus on building a strong middle class. Our economy always does better when we build it from the middle out. He talked a lot about making higher education more affordable and preparing people for 21st century jobs, which have both been top priorities of mine."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat: "With the economy improving, we are no longer governing from crisis – we are governing from opportunity, and we have a chance to bring both parties together to boost our economy and make progress for middle class families."

Rep. Tim Walz, 1st District, Democrat: "I don’t agree with everything the President said tonight, but Republicans and Democrats should work together towards these common sense goals and help more Americans achieve their own American Dream. We’ve come a long ways since the dark days of Great Recession. Let’s keep moving forward.”

Rep. John Kline, 2nd District, Republican: “Bigger and bloated government isn’t the solution to the problems facing our nation. ... Rather than roll out a new $320 billion tax hike that will hit working families, the President should join us in creating a simpler, cleaner tax code that would help spur job creation and create an environment that helps families, not hurts them."

Rep. Erik Paulsen, 3rd District, Republican: “Congress will remain focused on building a healthier economy that results in more jobs and bigger paychecks for hardworking families, and I urge the President to join us in this effort. From an ambitious trade agenda to a fairer, flatter tax code, we have an opportunity to find common ground that will provide real results for millions of Americans looking for financial security.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, 6th District, Republican: "The Republican majorities were not elected to fall in step with President Obama’s agenda—the American people are demanding change. The President needs to learn to work with, not against, Congress to find solutions. It’s been only two weeks since the 114th Congress was sworn in, and we’ve hit the ground running by passing solid, bipartisan legislation. Now the President needs to act."

Rep. Rick Nolan, 8th District, Democrat: "[The president] is making it clear that a good idea doesn’t require a party label. Republican or Democrat – it’s time for everyone to put their ideas on the table on a bipartisan basis so we can arrive at the best ways to ensure that the middle class can share in America’s growing prosperity. All in all, tonight’s speech was a good start – an agenda I think the majority of Americans will welcome.”

And here are a few more tweets about tonight's activities.

(click on the image in this first one to get the full effect)

Next Up

D'Angelo Russell

D'Lo's late takeover helps Timberwolves win double-OT thriller

Russell caught fire to help the Timberwolves get back to .500.

Gopher Football

Gophers suffocate Badgers, reclaim Paul Bunyan's Axe

Minnesota picked up its first home win over the Badgers since 2003.

Meeker County Sheriff's Office

Boy, 6, run over after falling off trailer in Meeker Co. tree farm accident

He was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with internal injuries.

Target store

Target unveils deals for 2-day 'Cyber Monday' event

The promotion kicks off Sunday, November 28.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.59.30 AM

Edina police warn of recent burglary trend targeting garages and vehicles

The Edina Police Department is increasing patrols in affected neighborhoods in response to the trend.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 9.03.06 AM

Charges: Man shot Uber Eats driver making a delivery in Cottage Grove

Otis Donnell Shipp was charged with second-degree attempted murder after turning himself in on Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.36.14 AM

Waterfront hotel in Duluth sustains damage in kitchen fire

Authorities estimate the damage at around $75,000.

Screen Shot 2021-11-27 at 7.15.18 AM

Large groups of thieves target 2 Twin Cities Best Buys on Black Friday

It bears similarities to the flash-mob style thefts seen recently in California.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves' winning streak snapped at five games

The Wolves' bid for their longest winning streak since 2014 came up short.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

Teen arrested over fatal shooting of 5-year-old boy in Brooklyn Park

Police say the teen was filming a social media video while handling a gun.

Joe Biden

President Biden coming to Minnesota to promote Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Tuesday's trip follows passage of the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.