COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Barack Obama, marking the retirement of the woman credited with popularizing the chant “Fired up, ready to go!” that epitomized his campaigns, says her energy played a key role in lifting his spirits and his candidacy.
“It was early in my campaign, and I wasn’t doing that good,” Obama recalled in a video provided to The Associated Press by the Obama Foundation, harking back to a 2007 campaign stop in Greenwood, South Carolina, on a dreary, rainy day.
But the small crowd, Obama said, was transformed as Edith Childs led them in the rousing, back-and-forth chant, “Fired up, ready to go!”
“Leadership and power and inspiration can come from anywhere,” Obama said in the video to mark Childs’ retirement after 24 years on the Greenwood County Council. “It just has to do with spirit, and nobody embodied that better than Edith.”
“Fired up, ready to go!” swiftly became part of the Obama campaign’s ethos, manifested in T-shirts, signs and bumper stickers.
This week, Childs told the AP that she had come to know the “fired up” verbiage from its use decades ago, the words energizing participants during NAACP voter registration drives.
“Once we sang that song, it reminded us that, no matter what, we have to remain fired up and ready to go, and be prepared for whatever confronts you,” she said.
Childs attended several events with the Obama family at the White House during his presidential tenure, led delegates in the chant during the 2012 Democratic National Convention and sat with first lady Michelle Obama at her husband’s final State of the Union address in 2016.
In the years since, the chant has become ingrained in South Carolina’s Democratic political scene. Politicians, including state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, regularly use it to amp up crowds at rallies across the state.
In 2020, it was adopted by billionaire businessman Tom Steyer, who ran a TV ad in South Carolina and other early-voting states featuring Childs’ endorsement of his presidential campaign.
Looking ahead to the 2024 presidential campaign — and South Carolina’s new first-in-the-nation Democratic primary — Childs said she was open to connect with candidates who might seek her support, although she said she wanted Democrats to be clearer about showcasing the party’s accomplishments in trying to appeal to voters.
“When you’re fired up about something, you put more into it,” she said. “We’re going in the right direction, but we need to be more vigilant about what we’re doing.”