WASHINGTON — He may not get much relief from Republicans about the U.S. budget, but President Barack Obama, who turns 50 today and is now eligible to join AARP, could start getting relief in his personal budget from movie theaters, hotels and restaurants.
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But that's where the similarities to most people turning the big 5-0 end.
Obama celebrated his milestone birthday last night with a star-studded fundraiser in Chicago, featuring a performance by Herbie Hancock and OK Go. Jennifer Hudson even sang "Happy Birthday" to the president.
Around 1,000 tickets, at a minimum $50 donor fee, were made available to members of the public for the dual fundraiser-birthday party, while 100 high dollar donors dished out up to $35,800 for a private dinner taking place after the concert.
The president delivered a speech at the event defending his record and performance, a day after he signed the controversial debt ceiling bill into law.
"When I said, 'Change you can believe in,' I didn't mean, change you can believe in tomorrow, or next week," he said. "We're not even halfway there yet," Obama said. "We knew this was going to take time, because we've got this big, messy tough democracy."
Obama expects to spend his birthday in Washington on Thursday, but the White House hasn't said how he and his family plan to celebrate.
Obama's one birthday wish came true days earlier.Slideshow: The life of Barack Obama (on this page)
"What I really want right now is to, to get a debt-ceiling deal for my birthday," Obama told NPR recently. That came Tuesday after he signed a deal to avoid the first-ever default for the United States on its financial obligations.
So what does the president think about turning 50?
"I feel real good" he said. "I've gotten a little grayer since I took this job, but otherwise, I feel pretty good."
Obama added that his wife, Michelle, has told him that she still thinks "I'm cute."
"And I guess that's, that's all that matters, isn't?" he said.Video: Happy birthday! Obama turns 50 (on this page)
'I've got dings and dents'
Obama was born in 1961 near the end of the baby boom years of 1946-1964. He'll join the more than 4.5 million other boomers who are turning 50 this year, according to AARP, citing U.S. Census figures.
"Now I'm gray," he says at campaign fundraisers. "I've got dings and dents," an apparent allusion to the bruising policy disputes he's had with Congress, including over the government's authority to borrow the money it needs to pay the bills.
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He told reporters at a White House news conference in mid-July that he was turning 50 in a week; his birthday actually was still three weeks away.Slideshow: Celebrity men over 50 (on this page)
"So I'm starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility," he said. "I'm going to get my AARP card soon — and the discounts." Not that he needs them. He has made millions from a best-selling memoir and earns $400,000 a year for running the country.
Gray hair spurs family debate
The gray hair around Obama's temples is about the only obvious sign of aging.
The 6-foot-1 president is as lanky as he was when he took office. He's gained no noticeable amount of weight despite a level of job stress that would send most people to the refrigerator for relief on a nightly basis.
He has stuck to a regimen of near daily exercise that includes treadmill runs, weight lifting and weekend games of pickup basketball, golf or substitute coaching daughter Sasha's basketball team.
"Many of you knew me before I had gray hair," Obama jokes at campaign fundraisers. He halted most travel in July, including fundraising appearances, due to the tense and intense negotiations with Congress.Slideshow: Inside Obama's White House (on this page)
Of the gray hair, he says: "Malia and Sasha say it makes me look distinguished. Michelle says it makes me look old." The first lady also talks about seeing the "worry creasing his face."
Obama is due for another medical checkup soon. Doctors declared him in excellent health after his first exam in early 2010 although he had a borderline high cholesterol level of 209 that suggested room for improvement in his diet.
The president has a habit of sampling local greasy-spoon delicacies — whether it's burgers, chili dogs, pastries or all of them — on trips outside of Washington. He once said he and the first lady would have to figure out how to resist ordering the White House pastry chef's pie every night "because whatever pie you like, he will make it and it will be the best pie you have ever eaten."
He also finally quit smoking, the first lady said.
Nationwide parties for his birthday
As part of Obama's birthday events, Democratic officials and campaign aides were fanning out across the country to raise money for Obama. The events included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York City, Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod in Los Angeles, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Washington, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and deputy campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon in Boston, and White House adviser David Plouffe in Tampa, Fla. Other events with Democratic surrogates were being held in Austin, Texas and Oakland, Calif.
The AP contributed to this report.
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