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Linda Bergthold Headshot

Fired Up and Ready to Go! A Tale of Two Cities

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Today there were two crowds fired up and ready to go about health reform. One crowd was in Washington D.C. and the other was in Minneapolis at the Target Center. But although there were thousands of citizens at each place, the tone could not have been more different.

In Washington, crowds were angry. They carried ugly signs of the President as the "joker" or Hitler. At least one 65 year-old was demanding that the government stay out of his health care, even though he clearly had Medicare, a government, single-payer program. The message was anti-government, anti-Obama, anti-health reform, anti- just about everything. The rally was organized by Glenn Beck (the oft-given to crying or confusing "cavalry" with "calvary" Fox News host) and his 9-12 project, along with Freedom Works, a right-wing corporate lobbying organization headed up by former Rep. Dick Armey.

In Minneapolis, the 15,000 or so Minnesotans were happy and cheered the President has he leaped onto the stage and, in campaign mode, began to explain his health reform plan. Obama was in rare form. He made jokes, teased the crowd for possibly watching "So you think you can dance" instead of his speech to a Joint Session of Congress Wednesday night, and then proceeded to give more or less the same speech with a few embellishments.

At the end of Obama's speech, he re-told (at his staff's insistence he said) the original "Fired up and Ready to Go" story he told so often during the campaign.

(Thanks to Politico.com's Mike Allen for this verbatim transcript: ) THE PRESIDENT: You know, I asked you -- I asked you at the beginning of the rally whether you were fired up. (Applause.) Some of you may have heard where that story comes from. But for those of you who don't know, I want to just tell this story real quick. My staff loves this story, so they always tell me, 'Tell that story.' (Laughter.) But it bears on what's happening with health care today. This is back at the beginning, when I was running for President. Nobody thought I could win; nobody could pronounce my name. (Laughter.) Nobody except R.T., that was the only person who believed. (Applause.)

So I went down to -- it was right at the beginning of the campaign. I went down to South Carolina to a legislative conference where I was supposed to be one of the speakers. And I was sitting next to a state representative there -- nobody was that excited to see me. (Laughter.) You know, I was -- but I really needed some support and endorsements because South Carolina was an early state. So I said to this state representative, 'Will you endorse my campaign?' And she looked at me and she said, 'I will endorse your campaign if you come to my hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina.' So I had had some wine and I was feeling kind of desperate. (Laughter.) I said, 'Yes, I'll come to Greenwood. Be happy to do it.' Only to find out that Greenwood is like an hour and a half from everyplace else. (Laughter.) You can't fly into Greenwood.

About a month later, I've been campaigning in Iowa for weeks -- (applause) -- haven't seen my family -- got some Iowa folks in the house? (Applause.) I'm exhausted. I get into Greenville, South Carolina, about midnight. I get to my hotel about 1:00 a.m. I'm dragging to the hotel. I'm carrying my bags, ready to hit the pillow. And suddenly my staff says, 'Sir?' I said, 'What?' (Laughter.) They said, 'Sir, you have to be in the car at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow -- in the morning.' (Laughter.) I said, 'Why is that?' They said, 'Because you've got to go to Greenwood like you promised.'

Next morning, I wake up and I feel awful, I feel terrible. I'm exhausted. And I stagger over to the window to pull open the blinds, and it's pouring down rain outside, terrible day. I go out and I get some coffee and open up the newspaper -- bad story about me in The New York Times. (Laughter.) I pack up, I go downstairs. As I'm walking to the car my umbrella blows open and I get drenched. (Laughter.) So by the time I'm in the car I'm wet and I'm sleepy and I'm mad. (Laughter.)

And I drive -- and we drive and we drive and we drive -- hour and a half, we just keep on driving. (Laughter.) Finally we get to Greenwood -- although you don't know that you're in Greenwood right away. (Laughter.) It's not like Minneapolis. (Laughter.) So there's a little field house in a park, and we go into the field house, I walk in, I get a little more wet. I walk in -- lo and behold, 20 people there. (Laughter.) Twenty people. And I'm already thinking about the fact I've got another hour and a half I've got to drive back. (Laughter.) And they're all kind of damp and they don't look like they're that happy to be there. The state rep had dragged them to the meeting.

But that's okay. I have a job to do. I'm running for President, I shake their hand, I say, 'How do you do, what do you do, nice to meet you.' Suddenly I hear this voice should out behind me: 'Fired up?' (Laughter.) And I almost jumped out of my shoes. (Laughter.) But everybody else acts like this is normal and they all say, 'Fired up!' And then I hear this voice: 'Ready to go?' And the people around me, they just say, 'Ready to go!' I don't know what's going on. So I look behind me, and there's this little woman there. She's about 5'2', 5'3', she's maybe 50, 60 years old. And she looks like she's dressed for church. She's got a big church hat. (Laughter.) And she's just grinning at me, just smiling. And she points at me and she says 'Fired up?' (Laughter and applause.) Wait, wait, the story gets better here. It turns out that she is a city councilwoman from Greenwood named Edith Childs -- that's her name -- and she's also known as the chant lady because she does this chant wherever she goes. She goes, 'Fired up?' 'Fired up!' 'Ready to go?' 'Ready to go!' (Laughter.) And she does this at every event she goes to. She's also, by the way, we discovered later, she also moonlights as a private detective but that's a -- (laughter) -- true story. True story.

But she's well known for her chant, so for the next five minutes, she starts chanting. She says, 'Fired up?' And everybody says, 'Fired up!' 'Ready to go?' 'Ready to go!' And this just keeps on going. And I realize I'm being upstaged by this woman. (Laughter.) And I'm -- she's getting all the attention, and I'm standing there looking at my staff and they're shrugging their shoulders. (Laughter.) But here's the thing, Minneapolis. After about a minute, maybe two, I'm feeling kind of fired up. (Laughter and applause.) I'm feeling -- I'm feeling like I'm ready to go. (Applause.)

And so -- so for the rest of the day, every time I saw my staff, I'd say, 'Are you fired up?' They'd say, 'I'm fired up.' 'Are you ready to go?' They'd say, 'I'm ready to go.' (Applause.) And it goes to show you how one voice can change a room. (Applause.) And if it changes a room it can change a city. And if it can change a city it can change a state. And if it can change a state it can change a nation. If it changes the nation it can change the world. (Applause.) It can bring health care to every American. It can lower our costs. It can make your insurance more secure. I want to know, Minnesota, are you fired up? ... They can't stop us. Let's go get this done. Thank you, everybody. God bless you.'

There are about 75 days between now and Thanksgiving. By Thanksgiving, we will know if there will be health reform legislation or not.