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Politics: Pawleys Island Democrat helps Obama celebrate at 50

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

For Elizabeth Montgomery, a birthday party invitation she received on Sunday was the equivalent of winning the lottery.

“The lottery would be more long-term, but this, I couldn’t ask for better,” the Pawleys Island area Democrat said.

Montgomery, 58, won a contest that put her on the guest list to help President Barack Obama ring in his 50th birthday with a star-studded bash at the Aragon ballroom in Chicago, his home city. It’s a privilege for which some attendees paid as much as $35,800.

“I’ve never won anything in my life as far as I can remember,” Montgomery said. “To win this, it’s pretty amazing.”

Montgomery was scheduled to leave early Wednesday for the event that night and return today, which is the president’s actual birthday.

The celebration, which was also a major fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee and Obama’s re-election campaign, included performances by Chicago natives OK Go, Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock, in addition to a speech by the president.

Montgomery was entered for the prize because she recruited 50 new supporters for Obama’s campaign as part of an effort called 50-for-50, which was set up in honor of the president’s milestone birthday. She was one of four campaign volunteers from around the country who were selected.

Officials called on Saturday to let her know she was a finalist and to ask a few questions, one of which was “Why are you in for 2012?”

“I just laughed,” Montgomery recalled. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me, I’ve been in since 2007.’ ”

The day Obama announced he was running for office, Montgomery signed up as a volunteer and said her support has never wavered.

“I just love him. I have believed in him from the very beginning. I have so much faith in him, and this is a dream come true,” she said

Her prize also entitled her to have her photo taken with the president. It will be the third time she has met him. She had a chance to talk with him at a fundraising campaign in Florence in April 2007 and posed for a quick photo with him and several others at an event in Conway later that year.

But as the day of the party approached, she was still battling nerves.

“It was such short notice and I didn’t know what to wear or what to expect,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe it.”

She got a pedicure and bought a new dress for the occasion — a “very simple” black dress, but she wasn’t satisfied with it and had the idea to look for something nicer.

Then she started stressing about shoes.

“Finally, I said ‘Stop it and think for a minute. You’re there representing grassroots America and their hard work and dedication, not big money donors.’ And that’s what’s so special to me is that the DNC has seen fit to do this for its grassroots volunteers. I decided the simple black dress will be fine.”

Montgomery was still working out what she would say to the president early this week.

“I know it’s going to have to be quick, so I need to say exactly what I want to say,” she said. “I’ll remind him first that we met in Florence, S.C., in 2007. I’m sure he doesn’t remember, but I certainly remember. Now, five years later, here he is and he’s president.”

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