Fired Up? Ready to Go?

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During Wednesday's address to Congress, the President rose above the chatter, misinformation, and petty politics that opponents of health insurance reform have taken to new heights.  In laying out the specifics of his plan, he spoke clearly on how it will benefit those who already have insurance -- ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, making sure you can't be dropped just because you get sick, capping out-of-pocket expenses, and eliminating extra charges for preventive care and tests that help you avoid getting sick in the first place.  He explained how for the tens of millions of Americans without insurance, a new Insurance Exchange, a public option, and tax credits will open up a new range of afforable choices. And he explained how all Americans can feel safe that reform will include provisions guaranteeing it will not add to the deficit and take significant steps to bring down costs for families, businesses, and the government.

President Barack Obama reaches out to the crowd
President Barack Obama reaches out to the crowd at a rally for health care reform at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 12, 2009.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
 

Yesterday the President took his case from the heart of Washington out on the road, where an enthusiastic crowd showed a snapshot of the hunger for reform all over the country.  During his remarks, the President discussed all of the same benefits of reform, but also emphasized that the fate of reform ultimately rests in their hands, and in all of your hands across the country:

THE PRESIDENT:  ...Minnesota, we are closer to reform than we've ever been before, but this is the hard part.  This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who think, you know, this is a good way to bring Obama down -- (boos) -- this is when they're going to fight with everything they've got.  This is when they'll spread all kinds of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people.  That's why I need your help.  (Applause.) 
AUDIENCE:  Yes we can!  Yes we can!  Yes we can!
THE PRESIDENT:  You know, there have been -- there have been some of the pundits in Washington who have been saying, well, maybe you've been trying to do too much. 
AUDIENCE:  No!
THE PRESIDENT:  Maybe you've been pushing too far too fast.
AUDIENCE:  No!
THE PRESIDENT:  And I try to remind them, I said, listen, I never said change would be easy.  (Applause.)  Change is hard.  It's always been hard.  When FDR -- when FDR decided that Social Security was something that seniors needed -- (applause) -- when FDR decided -- when FDR introduced Social Security, you know what happened?  They called it socialism.  But senior citizens decided that, you know what?  If I've got some protection in my golden years, that's something that's worth fighting for.  (Applause.)  When Medicare -- when Medicare was introduced as an idea, they said this is going to be a government takeover of Medicare.  But imagine what seniors would be dealing with right now if they didn't have Medicare.  Every time we've made progress it's because ordinary people banded together and they stood up and they said, we've got to make progress, and we're going to push and we're going to prod until Washington finally reacts, finally responds.  (Applause.)
I've always believed -- because I've always believed that change doesn't come from the top down; it comes from the bottom up.  It doesn't start in Washington, D.C.; it begins in places like Minneapolis, it begins in places like St. Paul.  (Applause.)  It begins with you sharing your stories, fighting for something better.  (Applause.)  That's how change happens.  That's what's happening right now.  (Applause.) 
AUDIENCE:  Yes we can!  Yes we can!  Yes we can!
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?
AUDIENCE:  Fired up!
THE PRESIDENT:  Ready to go?
AUDIENCE:  Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT:  Fired up?
AUDIENCE:  Fired up!
THE PRESIDENT:  Ready to go?
AUDIENCE:  Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT:  Fired up?
AUDIENCE:  Fired up!
THE PRESIDENT:  Ready to go?
AUDIENCE:  Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT:  They can't stop us.  Let's go get this done.  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)
 
When you go talk to your neighbors, bring a few of these (pdf).
 
The audience listens to President Barack Obama
The audience listens to President Barack Obama at a rally for health care reform at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 12, 2009.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
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