Jan. 22, 2008 — -- Democratic candidate Barack Obama returned to Greenwood, S.C. Tuesday, a place that helped shape the tenor of the Illinois senator's campaign when the slogan "fired up, ready to go" was first realized.
The small town, tucked into a western corner of the Palmetto State, is home to Edith Childs, a 59-year-old councilwoman and part-time nurse who casually branded a national slogan for a presidential candidate when she first sang those five words.
"I was one of 39," she said, recalling the June 15 event at Greenwood Civic Center. Obama was not scheduled to stop there, she says. He was attending as a favor to local official Rep. J. Anne Parks, and when the senator arrived, it was raining, foggy and he was grumpy.
"When he came in, he did look tired and worn, but it wasn't long before that whole attitude changed," Childs told ABC News.
Obama was casually greeting supporters when Childs interrupted with a shout, "Fired up, ready to go!" Childs recalled the crowd, including Obama, as initially startled, but within moments, the confusion gave way to conviction and Obama was warmed by the expression. So warmed in fact that since the interaction, he often recounts the story on the campaign trail as a way to express how one voice can make a difference.
And that is what he did in Greenwood Tuesday. The senator ended his stump speech with a personal account of how Childs and he were first acquainted. Obama then called Childs up to the stage to ask her a very important question.
"After this whole year, I want to know one thing, Edith," Obama said. "Are you still fired up?"
The duo proceeded to lead the audience in a rendition of "fired up, ready to go," which was met by overwhelming applause and cheers from the crowd.
The slogan has also garnered national attention, often used by Obama supporters to rally crowds, and even borrowed by New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, his top Democratic rival for the White House.
"We are fired up and we are ready to go," Clinton told a crowd in Davenport, Iowa, before the Iowa caucus.
On Jan. 3, through his campaign-worn voice, Obama responded to Clinton's borrow of his campaign's catchphrase by telling ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he's "glad she's fired up. I want everybody in the country to be fired up and ready go to go for change. I want everybody on the change bandwagon."
Childs says she had no intention of fueling a national battle cry for her party. "I just did what I normally do for people I feel good about," she said.
"I'm just honored because it's not everyday that you can say just five little words and someone will use them that makes a difference for everyone in the U.S."
But Obama is not the first to be showered with Childs' good cheer. Childs has used it to ignite crowds during her 30-plus years in Democratic fundraising, specifically working for the NAACP in the late 1970s.
"We'd get people out to vote, we'd sing that song, 'fired up, ready to go.' When you hear that song, you're ready to go do something," she said.
This time around, however, Childs added a personal touch to the original chant, modifying it to include: "Sen. Obama will be our next president," followed by, "that's why we're fired up and ready to go, fired up and ready to go."
After Obama and Childs' first meeting, she spoke with the senator by phone when he called to ask permission to incorporate the slogan into his campaign, specifically, on his Web site.
"He called me, actually it was just an accident that I answered the phone," Childs said.
"Normally I don't answer when there's a strange voice and I said excuse me? I don't have time to be playing a game, don't play games with me," she said. "He went on to say, 'did you realize you are a celebrity? Everywhere we go, they're singing your slogan, 'fired up, ready to go.'"
Tuesday's event was part of a statewide tour to build momentum for the senator leading up to the first primary in the South.
"We're ready to go on Saturday," Childs told ABC News after Obama had left the stage. "It will be a landslide in South Carolina." Childs promises she'll be the first person in the county to cast her vote.
"I'm going to register at my precinct at 7 a.m. when the doors open...My plans are to be the first one to vote that morning and I will always be fired up."