Obama visits young people – in Pete Souza’s famous ‘Hair Like Mine’ photo
WASHINGTON — At a time when everything seems so bleak — Buffalo, Uvalde and more — here’s an upbeat story about how former President Barack Obama reconnected with Jacob Philadelphia.
You probably don’t remember Jacob’s name.
But you know the picture.
One of the most iconic photos of Obama’s presidency was taken in the Oval Office on May 8, 2009, when a young black man – Jacob – the son of a White House national security staffer , asked him, “Is your hair like mine?” ”
And Obama remembered saying in response, “Do you want to check it out and see?”
Obama, the first black president, leaned over so Jacob, then 5, could pat his head.
The ubiquitous White House photographer Pete Souza took the photo, and it was titled “Hair Like Mine,” since Obama and Jacob shared the same short haircut.
Obama sent Jacob a copy of the photo which he signed: “We have the same haircut!
While photos were often rotated in and out of the West Wing during Obama’s two terms, the photo of Obama leaning over so Jacob could smell his hair was displayed for the remainder of Obama’s presidency.
A copy of this famous photo of Souza hangs in Obama’s office in Washington, where he runs his various post-presidential businesses.
Jacob is now 18, has lived abroad for years, and is about to graduate from high school and attend the University of Memphis, where he wants to study political science.
Jacob’s father, Carlton Philadelphia, was a National Security Council staffer in 2009 who brought his family to meet Obama in the Oval Office on his departure from his White House job.
His father joined the State Department. The Philadelphia family has lived overseas for years in various postings including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Obama reconnected with Jacob on May 19 when he graduated from high school at the International School of Uganda in Kampala.
Obama’s team released a video on Friday that includes their conversation with Jacob in Uganda and the thoughts the photo prompted.
Standing by the photo in his office, Obama said, “I think that photo embodied one of the hopes I had when I first started running for office. I remember saying to Michelle and some of my staff, you know, I think if I were to win, the day I was sworn in, young people, especially African Americans, people of color, strangers, people who maybe always felt out of place – they looked at each other differently, to see someone who looked like them in the Oval Office.
“It would speak to black kids and Latino kids, gay kids, young girls. Now they could see the world opening up to them,” Obama said.
Jacob told Obama when they video chatted that as a kid visiting the Oval Office, he just thought the president was his dad’s boss.
He told Obama he remembered touching his hair: “It was a pretty significant moment in my life,” Jacob said. “It’s very wonderful to see representation in government because if I see another black man being at the top, being at that top, then I want to go that route.”
The Obama team learned that Jacob was about to graduate. Obama also provided a video to the school in which he congratulated the class of 2022, “especially Jacob. I can’t believe you already graduated from high school, which means,” said Obama, whose hair is now gray, “I’m old.”