President Obama Grudgingly Celebrates His 49th Birthday

Chicago-bound Obama to ring in another year with little fanfare, more gray hair.

August 03, 2010, 9:46 PM

Aug. 4, 2010 — -- President Obama turns 49 years old today, and while it's not quite the milestone of the big 5-0, clearly he is ringing in another year only grudgingly.

Obama has made references in the past week to the outward signs of his aging.

"I will be 49 this week," Obama said in Atlanta on Monday. "I have a lot more gray hair than I did last year."

He followed that comment this week with two more references lamenting his dark hair going grayer with each month in office.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the job as commander-in-chief is one the president no doubt enjoys, but it will just require him to get more frequent haircuts to cover up those pesky gray hairs.

"I can't imagine that the weight of the job doesn't take a toll physically and mentally on anybody that does it," Gibbs said at the White House daily briefing Tuesday. "But at the same time ... I would say he's still in pretty good shape and is enjoying the job even with its many challenges. ... There's no doubt that it takes an enormous physical and mental strain on making the decisions that you make."

And then there are the inward signs of his age -- a slowing metabolism.

At the Tastee Sub Shop in Edison, N.J., last week, the president implied that his upcoming birthday means that he has to start making smarter choices about his food portions.

"I want everyone to know [that] when I was 20 I could order a 12-inch," he joked. "I'm turning 49 next week, which means [I can order] just the half."

Dr. Michael Roizen of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of, said a president typically ages two years for every one year in office.

"The number one ager for all of us is stress," Roizen said, adding that and lack of socialization really wear on presidents.

"It's a very high-stress job, but they lose their friends," Roizen said. "Typically, when they come into office they have friends. But by the time they leave, most of those friends apparently are asking for something. So they lose their confidants."

Presidential Birthday Plans

President Obama, however, will return to his hometown of Chicago to celebrate his birthday.

"I think his plans for [Wednesday] are dinner with some friends in Chicago," Gibbs said. "And I think he is looking forward to spending the night in his house for a change."

When President Obama blows out his candles tonight, though, he won't be surrounded by family. His wife, first lady Michelle Obama, and their younger daughter, Sasha, are on a short vacation in Spain. His older daughter, Malia, is away on summer camp.

"I think it's safe to say that, of course, he will miss them," Gibbs said. "But they'll be all back together soon."

While in Chicago, President Obama also will be taking care of his presidential duties. After staying overnight, he will speak at a Ford Plant in Chicago to tout progress in the auto industry. Later Thursday, he will attend a fundraiser.

Similarly, last year on his 48th birthday, President Obama didn't pull out the bells and whistles to celebrate another year. He spent his birthday weekend with friends and family at Camp David, where he played basketball and bowled.

While the president may be downplaying his birthday, the fundraising arm of the DNC -- Organizing for America (OFA) -- certainly is not.

More than 600 parties have been organized to celebrate the president's birthday across the nation.

"The president was a community organizer, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to celebrate his birthday today to pay homage to his career, but also [to] accomplish something serious at the same time," said Lynda Tran, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. "OFA volunteers and staff are holding more than 600 events all around the country -- everything from phone banks to rallies to birthday parties, specifically to celebrate the president's birthday."

Call it a working party.

While the parties may look like a birthday party --with cakes decorated in presidential fashion and balloons -- there also will be lines and lines of telephones so volunteers can talk to the neighbors in their community.

"What we're doing is asking people to call 49 voters each," Tran said, "and they are talking to those voters about what the stakes are for voting this fall and making sure they understand the importance of getting out to the voting booths this November."

Even first lady Michelle Obama is involved in the grassroots celebration. Last week, she sent a solicitation for signatures for people to sign an online birthday card for the president through the OFA.

"I'm putting together a birthday card that I would like you to sign," the first lady wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "Together with other Organizing for America supporters -- and me, Malia, Sasha, and Bo [the Obama family dog] -- we'll wish him a happy birthday and let him know that we're ready to take on the year ahead alongside him."

About 1.2 million people have signed the card for the president -- and some of those signatures even could turn into cash. Supporters also can also donate money to the DNC -- and the presidential birthday cause -- while signing the birthday card.

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