Early in his first presidential run, then-Sen. Barack Obama took a long drive to a town in the middle of nowhere, South Carolina. A torrential rain and a broken umbrella drenched the future president as he entered a small gathering of 20-or-so voters in Greenville who he said later looked just as sleepy and just as disinterested in being there as he was.
But in that small gathering was Edith S. Childs, a black women wearing a church hat, who took it upon herself to stoke some excitement. “Fired up,” she chanted. “Ready to go.” The crowd joined in. A shocked Obama looked to his aides, who shrugged.
“I’m standing there and I’m thinking, ‘she’s stealing my thunder,’” Obama later said on the eve of Election Day 2008. But “after a minute or so I’m feeling kind of fired up. I’m feeling ready to go.”
Eight years later, the rallying cry that came to be one of Obama’s most-used chants that year still resounds. Campaigning for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Ohio Tuesday, Obama stood in front of the words “fired up, ready to vote.” And, eight years later, Childs, who sits on her county council, is just as fired up and ready to go for the woman she hopes will be Obama’s successor.
The International Business Times caught up with Childs over the phone to hear how she feels about the 2016 election and Obama, whom she now calls a friend.
Are You Fired Up About Clinton? How Do You Think She Stacks Up To Obama? First of all, they are different people in their own way. Him being the first minority president, we rallied behind that. Then she being the first woman president and we rally behind that. That’s why I feel confident she’s going to be OK.
Do You Think This Is As Historic Of An Election As ’08? How Do You Feel About It? I do. We have a part of us that is ready to go backwards — that’s willing to go backwards — but you have the other part that is willing to go forward and to move this country forward and she is far better a candidate to move forward than Donald Trump.
I always felt, I knew at some point we’d have a black president but I thought it’d be way down the road. I even said it when he first ran — he laughs about it now — I thought, “mmmh, I’ll be dead and gone before it happens.” But, then when I first heard him speak I was just impressed with it. And it just started from there. There was just something about him. I said that he was going to be our next president.
Do You Feel That Same Inspiration When It Comes To Clinton? I do feel the same about Hillary Clinton. Because, let’s go back to President Obama first. The media, the naysayers out there, tried to find all sorts of stuff out there about the president. Donald Trump was one of the biggest ones saying he wasn’t born in the United States.
Same thing, I say, with Hillary. Hillary has done some stuff and so has Donald Trump but I far trust Hillary Clinton in the White House than Donald Trump. Right now he’s not concerned about the people in general. Even those people that are following him, he’s not concerned about them, he just hopes they’ll get him to the White House but there aren’t enough to get him to the White House.
I think she cares more than he does. When that woman graduated from college she came… to help poor people. She came in to work for poor people and tried to help with the school segregation and those things — that says a lot about her. She’s still concerned about the needs of people, especially children and that says a lot.
Looking Back On The Past Eight Years, How Do You Feel About Obama’s Presidency? Well, I think he has done a lot. He got a lot passed.
I just think he’s done a lot. Could have done more had the two parties worked together, if the Senate and the House were willing to work together. But no, they said “we’re going to make him a one term president.” But it didn’t happen because that wasn’t what the people wanted. What people can’t get through their mind is that racism is still present and alive.
The White House was made for everybody.
What sickened my spirit [is how he was treated as president]. It really upset me because I never saw it in person, I saw it on TV, but when I saw how the Republicans — some of the Republicans — how they just disrespected him when he was speaking [during his final State of the Union], that just didn’t sit well with me.
I could see what those on the lower level were doing. I said, “whatchya doing?”
To attend I got to see it all. I said, “here it is, 2016 and people are still like this like we’re in the ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s.”
It just didn’t go well with me. It just didn’t. But he’s done a great job and won’t get the credit that he needs. That is ok but there are people who were struggling and are now beginning to get back up on their feet and that’s why we need Hillary Clinton in there.
Your Chant Became Obama’s Rallying Cry. It’s now being used by the Clinton campaign. How Does That Make You Feel? Well, I’m fine with it. He asked for permission to use those five words. I’m okay with it being used now. Even though it was for him, but if he chooses to use it while he’s out running for Secrecy Hillary Clinton, it’s fine. I don’t have any problem at all.
I Figured You Would Say You Were Proud. I am proud. But it’s okay. When I say it’s okay that’s what I mean: it’s okay.
I actually didn’t know when, even when he asked to use the slogan, I did not have a clue that it would’ve gone like that. And you know how I believe that it went well? Because he was elected and there are people from all over the United States that were just happy and excited about that fired up ready to go for him. I didn’t know how important it was until I went to D.C. in January [for the State of the Union] and there were 1,200 people to just hear me talk about what transpired with myself and the president and they were just overjoyed with what had happened with the fired up ready to go.
I just don’t see stuff like that. You know how some people re just overly proud about stuff? Mmmhmmm. I am not like that. I’m just not built that way. I’m happy about it, you know. I’m just happy that he remained my friend until today and when he leaves the White House he will still be my friend they will be my friends.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.