President Obama came to Chicago Wednesday to celebrate his 50th birthday.
He was greeted in Chicago by his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor, before heading to a fundraiser at Aragon Ballroom, headlined by local favorites Herbie Hancock, Jennifer Hudson and OK Go.
Donors paid between $50 and $35,800, the legal maximum, to attend.
That price had some Republicans bristling, given the nation's struggling economy and the just-averted debt crisis.
Despite the heat in the packed ballroom, the president showed a healthy sense of humor at becoming a quinquagenarian, saying that he’ll wake up with an email from AARP telling him to “call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare."
In the drawn-out debt negotiations, Republicans had called for major cuts to Medicare funding. The audience greeted the zinger with loud applause.
It's unclear how Obama will spend his actual birthday on Thursday. His first birthday as president was spent on a weekend trip at Camp David.
A play-by-play of the evening's event:
Update 9:50 p.m.: Air Force One is wheels up at O'Hare, bound for Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Update 9:38 p.m.: Obama boards Air Force One at O'Hare.
Update 9:17 p.m.: President Obama departs Aragon Ballroom.
Update 8:32 p.m.: Daughter Malia Obama will leave summer camp Thursday to spend time with her father for his birthday.
Update 7:45 p.m.: Obama ends rousing address to supporters, leaves stage with Brooks & Dunn's "Only In America" playing over loudspeakers.
Update 7:34 p.m.: Obama defends his record and performance as president. "When I said, 'Change you can believe in, I didn't mean, change you can believe in tomorrow, or next week." Says economy was bad when he assumed office and that recovery will take some time.
Update 7:27 p.m.: Obama jokes about turning 50 on Thursday. He said he'll wake up with an email from AARP telling him to "call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare," a reference to the just-averted debt crisis. Republicans had called for major cuts to Medicare funding. The audience applauds loudly.
Update 7:23 p.m.: Obama says he "couldn't be more proud" of Emanuel. "I've been watching from Washington, but it seems he's doing a pretty good job."
Update 7:22 p.m. Obama gets loud reception at Aragon as crowd sings "Happy Birthday." - Mary Ann Ahern
Update 7:20 p.m.: Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduces President Obama to the "city that works." - Mary Ann Ahern
Update 7:15 p.m.: White House Chief of Staff is not with the president at the Aragon Ballroom. He's with his brother, former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, at the White Sox game.
Update 6:53 p.m.: Print pool is assembled in a small room to monitor the president's Democratic National Committee teleconference, which reportedly will be viewed by some 1,100 meetings with supporters around the country.
After the teleconference, the president will take to the stage at the Aragon. Mayor Rahm Emanuel will introduce him.
Update 6:52 p.m.: Obama is in a small backstage room at the Aragon, where the air conditioning is working and several laptop computers are set up. The ballroom itself is described as "stick hot" according to a Wall Street Journal pool reporter. Some people in the audience are wearing cone-shaped paper birthday hats with "50" and the Obama campaign logo on them.
Update 6:39 p.m.: Lake Shore Drive is jammed with traffic from Wilson Avenue to the Mag Mile. - Carol Marin
Update 6:33 p.m.: Inside the Aragon, Herbie Hancock is performing. The crowd is wall-to-wall and it's very warm. Notables spotted so far: Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Kwame Raoul, City Clerk Susana Mendoza, Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn and Obama friend Eric Whitaker. Not seen is White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, former Mayor Richard Daley's brother. Did he opt to go to the Sox game honoring his brother? - Mary Ann Ahern
Update 6:25: Presidential motorcade travels down Lawrence Avenue. - Jeff Goldblatt
|Presidential motorcade on Lawrence Avenue|
|Presidential motorcade on Lawrence Avenue|
Update: 6:20 p.m.: Lawrence Avenue shut down. Police have put up sawhorses with Streets and Sanitations snow plows behind them as reinforcement. Pedestrian traffic near Aragon Ballroom is restricted.
Update 6:15 p.m.: Choppers seen above Uptown. Speculation is that Marine One will land at Montrose Harbor and motorcade will take Lawrence Avenue for trip to Aragon Ballroom.
Update 6:10 p.m.: Marine One departs O'Hare for trip to city.
Update 6:00 p.m. Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets President Obama. It's the mayor's first time welcoming his former boss to Chicago.
Update 5:53 p.m.: Air Force One has landed at O'Hare.
Update 5:30 p.m: Watch President Obama's arrival at O'Hare International Airport.
Update 4:15 p.m.: President Obama has departed Joint Andrews Base in Maryland for the 1 hour, 45 minute flight to Chicago. He's expected to arrive at about 6 p.m.