“These eight years have been a joy for me to have known you as the president of these United States of America.”
Edith Childs was an honored guest in the first lady’s box during President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address in 2016. As soon as Child’s image flashed on TV screens across the country, she became an instant star. The Washington Post declared that the 67-year-old South Carolina councilwoman “stole the show by showing up in her Sunday Best.” And while her name and face may not have previously been known to most viewers, anyone who followed the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections is familiar with the Obama campaign’s rallying cry—“Fired up! Ready to go!” A chant Edith is credited with originating.
On Wednesday, Edith sat down for a StoryCorps interview in the White House with Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Together they looked back on the June 2007 morning when Barack Obama, then the junior senator from Illinois, first met Edith at a sparsely attended Greenwood campaign stop.
In the excerpt from their conversation below, Edith also shares with Jarrett stories about growing up “country poor” at a time when black children were not allowed to ride on the same buses as white children, and recounts what the Obama presidency has meant to her, and what it would have meant to the grandmother who raised her.