But who was paying attention anyway? LU friend and colleague Allen West was there, attending the speech live, and writes that State of the Union addresses generally tend to be pretty theatrical. That Tuesday’s spectacle was above and beyond the expected level of showmanship is evidenced by one of the figures who President Obama carted out as a living testimonial to the greatness of his policies. That was Rebekah Erler, who was invited to the SOTU because of her moving story.
Here’s how Obama framed it:
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.
Well, not entirely, as it turns out. The president omitted a small detail. Namely, Rebekah Erler is a former Democratic campaign operative who worked as a field organizer for Sen. Patty Murray. She has been used by Obama for political events in the past. In short, she is a “plant.” But what difference should that make?