(CHICAGO) -- President Obama jump started his 50th birthday celebration at a packed Democratic National Committee fundraiser in his hometown of Chicago Wednesday night, where he used the milestone as an opportunity to raise campaign cash and remind voters, “We’ve got more work to do.”
“For all the frustrations and the challenges and resistance, we have to bringing about change. ... When the American people join together, we cannot be stopped,” Obama said to a full house at the historic Aragon Ballroom. “We say to ourselves, ‘Yes, we can.’ It doesn’t matter how tough a week I have in Washington, because I know you’ve got me -- you’ve got my back. When I come to Chicago, when I travel across the country, I know we can’t be stopped. I know America is the greatest nation on Earth. And I know we will bring about the change that all of us believe in.”
The voter enthusiasm that propelled Obama to the White House in 2008 was on full display Wednesday as roughly 2,400 supporters braved the heat -- the AC in the Aragon was on the fritz -- to see the hometown president.
Attendees paid $50 each for a ticket to the birthday-themed event, where supporters donned 50th birthday hats and cooled themselves with “Obama 2012” paper fans. But the president wasn’t the only draw, guests were also entertained with performances by Chicago-native musicians Jennifer Hudson, Herbie Hancock and the rock group OK Go.
“I just want to, first of all, say I could not have a better early birthday present than spending the night with all of you,” Obama said after walking on stage as the crowd serenaded him with the “Happy Birthday” song.
The president also joked about hitting the half century mark.
“It’s true that I turn 50 tomorrow, which means that 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.
Obama was introduced by his former chief of staff, the current Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel. The president later joked, “It looks to me like Rahm is doing a pretty good job. And as far as I can tell, he hasn’t cursed in public yet.”
While admitting “Chicago, we’ve got more work to do,” the president touted his accomplishments since taking office, including reviving the auto industry, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and investing in education.
“When I said, ‘change we can believe in,’ I didn’t say, ‘change we can believe in tomorrow.’ Not, ‘change we can believe in next week.’ We knew this was going to take time, because we’ve got this big, messy, tough democracy,” he said. “And that’s the great thing about America is, is that there are all these contentious ideas that are out there and we’ve got to make our case.”
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio