The Washington Post

Obama gets older, and grayer

President Obama turns the big 50 this Thursday, and despite his few self-proclaimed “dents and dings in the fender,” the president has remained optimistic about aging.

“I feel real good about the 5-0,” Obama told NPR on July 22. “I’ve got a little grayer since I took this job, but otherwise, I feel pretty good.”

In fact, instead of spiraling toward a midlife crisis, the commander-in-chief is using his graying in the public eye as a clever tool for his 2012 reelection bid.

An older-but-wiser motif has begun to sprout up in several of Obama’s fundraising speeches as the 2012 presidential campaign season heats up.

“I don’t look that young anymore,” Obama told supporters on a conference call in April. “I’m grayer, I have bags under my eyes, but that core spirit is still there.”

In 2008, Obama centered his campaign around youthfulness, but this time he’s presenting himself as a more experienced candidate who’s grown during his time in office.

“I’m old enough where hopefully I’ve made enough mistakes I’m not going to repeat,” Obama said. “And I’m still young enough that I can appreciate that wisdom.”

The president is also drawing an audience that can empathize with the plights of aging.

Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior aide and longtime Obama personal friend, said in an interview with Politico that this recurring theme began initially with “spontaneous” references to the president’s graying hair and aging both in public and private settings.

“It’s not weighing on him — he’s very comfortable with the stage of life that he’s in,” Jarrett told Politico. ”He shares in a very lighthearted way. It’s just a reality. It’s a common feeling that many men and women of his age experience as life moves on.”

And that much is true. At the heart of it all, Obama’s just an American father turning 50 on August 4th with the support of his family.

Of his gray hair, Obama says that his girls, Malia and Sasha, think it makes him look distinguished, despite his wife Michelle saying it makes him look old.

“And Michelle, you know, says that, you know, she — she — she still thinks, I’m, I’m cute, you know,” Obama told NPR’s Michel Martin.

“And I guess that’s, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?”

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