Aug 4, 2011

Today, President Obama celebrates his 50th birthday.  

President Obama raised more than $3.6 million on the eve of his 50th birthday Wednesday night, at three birthday party-themed events in Chicago. Back in Washington, two private birthday parties, not fundraisers, are scheduled for him at the White House on Thursday, his actual birthday.

In a little over three hours on Wednesday, Obama held three events in the Windy City: a video teleconference, a large musical fundraiser and a private dinner. The financial benefit was significant: Aides reported that approximately 1,700 people attended the concert, where tickets started at $50. Later, at a private dinner, approximately 100 guests each paid the individual legal maximum donation of $35,800 to the Democratic National Committee.

The birthday theme was strong throughout the night. At his first event, Obama addressed participants at hundreds of campaign-ready "birthday" house parties across the nation. "I'm beaming in from Chicago," he said to them. "Having a little birthday celebration in my home town." The president then took questions from three groups of participants, some of whom waved signs wishing him a happy 50th -- and one questioner sang him "Happy Birthday."

More singing ensued at the next event, a fundraiser at the Aragon Ballroom, but this time it was much more professional: Jennifer Hudson led thousands of donors in a round of "Happy Birthday," accompanied by jazz legend Herbie Hancock (himself an Obama donor), as well as the band "OK Go." Between tunes, Obama touched on many of his 2012 campaign themes, but added a few birthday jokes. Among them, the president told the crowd that he expected an email from AARP the following morning on his birthday, "asking me to call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare."

The third event was held upstairs at the Aragon, and was much more expensive, with an evening's total of around $3.65 million. Chicago mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel joined the president at both fundraisers, and Obama teased him for not having cursed enough in public since he was elected. There was reportedly no birthday singing at the second dinner.

Obama didn't make it back to Washington until after midnight, and he officially turned 50 while on Air Force One. A few staffers sang to him as he walked into the White House.

The president's plans on Thursday include meetings in the Oval Office during the first part of the day, followed by an afternoon party hosted by his staff. On Thursday evening, the president's good friends will join his family for a private celebration at the White House, paid for by the Obamas.


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