WASHINGTON (AP) — With the arduous debt talks behind him, President Barack Obama celebrated his 50th birthday at the White House Thursday with a Rose Garden party, a toast from his senior staff and some good-natured ribbing from his wife.
After spending the morning of his milestone birthday working in the Oval Office, the president headed to the Blue Room of the White House for a celebration with top aides. White House chefs were spotted cooking chicken and burgers on outdoor grills.
Later, Obama was celebrating with family and friends, including some who came in from his hometown of Chicago, in the Rose Garden. The president's oldest daughter, Malia, also made it home from summer camp in time to celebrate her dad's 50th.
Even on her husband's birthday, Michelle Obama couldn't resist poking fun at his graying hair. In a campaign email — subject line "Gray Hairs" — the first lady asked supporters to sign an electronic birthday card for the president, and said she knows the reason for his salt-and-pepper hair.
"I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family. That's no small task for anyone — and more proof that he's earning every last one of those gray hairs," Mrs. Obama wrote.
The president himself has approached his big birthday with a sense of humor.
"By the time I wake up, I'll have an email from AARP asking me to call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare," he said during a fundraiser in Chicago on the eve of his birthday.
Obama was free to travel to Chicago Wednesday for the birthday-themed fundraisers after reaching a deal with Republicans earlier in the week to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avert a calamitous government default.
With the cloud of uncertainty that surrounded the debt debate now lifted, Obama had a wide smile on his face for much of the night, especially as musicians Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock and the band OK Go, along with the crowd of about 2,400 gathered at Chicago's historic Aragon Ballroom, sang "Happy Birthday."
During a video conference with some of the more than 1,000 birthday-theme house parties his supporters held coast-to-coast Wednesday night, Obama got another serenade from a group in North Carolina, while supporters in Ohio held up signs wishing the president a happy 50th.
An administration official said the Obamas will pay for the president's birthday party at the White House. The Obama family will cap their birthday celebrations with a weekend trip to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
Obama was born Aug. 4, 1961, near the end of the baby boom years of 1946-64. He's the third U.S. president who belongs to the baby boom generation, a population of more than 76 million. Bill Clinton was the first, followed by George W. Bush.
Julie Pace can be reached at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC