We desperately need an uplifting story these days.
In the days before the People’s House was turned into a nest of collusion, corruption and conspiracy, a young Black boy visited that House.
In 2009, five-year-old Jacob Philadelphia was visiting the Oval Office with his father, then-National Security Council staffer Carlton Philadelphia.
Intrigued by then-President Obama’s hair, young Jacob asked the president, “Is your hair like mine?”
“Go ahead, touch it,” the president said and bowed his head down for Jacob to do just that.
And indeed, Jacob touched the president’s hair and then – as if to compare – he touched his own hair.
White House photographer Pete Souza had the presence of mind to capture those iconic images for posterity. He named them “Hair Like Mine.”
The photographs went viral. One of those photographs along with other intimate photographs were published here.
Thirteen years later, Jacob, now 18, is graduating from the International School of Uganda and President Obama reconnected with him via a video call to congratulate him and to reminisce on Jacob’s visit to the White House 13 years ago.
Courtesy of CNN, here are some of the details of the conversation:
“I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope,” Obama said in the video.
“Yes. It really has,” Philadelphia replied.
Reflecting on the 2009 image, the President noted, “I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I’d had when I first started running for office.”
President Obama explained:
I remember telling Michelle and some of my staff, you know, I think that if I were to win, the day I was sworn into office, young people, particularly African American people, people of color, outsiders, folks who maybe didn’t always feel like they belonged, they’d look at themselves differently. To see a person who looked like them in the Oval Office. It would speak to Black kids and Latino kids and gay kids and young girls — how they could see the world open up for them.
Remembering his visit, Jacob Philadelphia said:
When I was younger, I just thought the President was just my dad’s boss. I didn’t know how powerful he was…I was a little shy and I kind of remember touching his hair and him towering over me. That was a pretty big highlight of my life.
It is very wonderful to see representation in the government because if I get to see another Black man be at the top, be at that pinnacle, then I want to follow that lead.
Watch President Obama reminisce about the occasion and chat with Jacob here
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.