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Former President Barack Obama had a heartwarming reunion with Jacob Philadelphia — the boy who touched his head in the iconic 2009 ‘Hair Like Mine’ photo — to celebrate his high school graduation.
The 60-year-old reflected on his unforgettable meeting with Philadelphia and the resulting image captured by White House photographer Pete Souza in a video shared by the Obama Foundation.
The nearly-five-minute clip included footage of Obama’s recent conversation with Philadelphia on Zoom ahead of his graduation from the International School of Uganda on May 27.
‘It’s Barack Obama, man. Do you remember me?’ the former commander-in-chief asked the now-teenager.
Former President Barack Obama, 60, reunited with Jacob Philadelphia – the boy who touched his head in the iconic 2009 ‘Hair Like Mine’ photo – to celebrate his high school graduation
Philadelphia was five years old when he asked then-President Obama, ‘Is your hair like mine?’ The commander-in-chief had the boy touch his head to see for himself, a moment that was captured by White House photographer Peter Souza
‘I remember you telling me that your hair was going to be gray next time,’ Philadelphia said, prompting a laugh from Obama.
‘And I was not lying,’ he replied.
Philadelphia was five years old when he and his family visited the Oval Office with his father, then-National Security Council staffer Carlton Philadelphia.
During the meeting, he asked then-President Obama, ‘Is your hair like mine?’
The commander-in-chief kindly bent down and told the boy to touch his head, inspiring Souza to photograph the endearing moment.
Over a decade later, Philadelphia is graduating from the International School of Uganda. He plans to attend the University of Memphis and study political science
When Obama asked Philadelphia what he thought, he replied, ‘Yeah, I think that’s pretty much what I’ve got.’
The iconic photo — which Souza later named ‘Hair Like Mine’ — remains an important reminder of why representation matters.
The heartwarming image was framed and hung in the West Wing for years during his presidency,’ according to the video.
‘I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I’d had when I first started running for office,’ Obama said.
‘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,’ he continued.
Obama reflected on his unforgettable meeting with Jacob Philadelphia and the resulting photo in a video shared by the Obama Foundation on Thursday
‘I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I’d had when I first started running for office,’ Obama said
‘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.’
Philadelphia also shared his memories of that day in the video, explaining he was too young at the time to really understand the significance of meeting the world leader.
‘When I was younger, I just thought the President was just my dad’s boss. I didn’t know how powerful he was,’ he said. ‘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,’ he added.
As the son of a State Department employee, Philadelphia has already had the opportunity to travel the world. He told Obama that he plans to attend the University of Memphis and study political science after his high school graduation.
Obama’s conversation with Philadelphia on Zoom ahead of his graduation was also featured in the video
‘I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope,’ Obama said. ‘Yes, it really has,’ Philadelphia agreed
‘I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope,’ Obama said.
‘Yes, it really has,’ Philadelphia agreed.
Obama shared the video on his social media pages on Friday, a few days after he faced backlash for linking the Texas massacre to the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder.
‘As we grieve the children of Uvalde today, we should take time to recognize that two years have passed since the murder of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer,’ he tweeted. ‘His killing stays with us all to this day, especially those who loved him.’
The message was shared on Wednesday, one day after Salvador Ramos murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Philadelphia also shared his memories of that day in the video, explaining he was too young at the time to really understand the significance of meeting the world leader
‘When I was younger, I just thought the President was just my dad’s boss. I didn’t know how powerful he was,’ he said. ‘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’
Wednesday also marked two years to the day that Floyd was killed by arresting Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on his neck until he passed out.
The message was quickly slammed online by many social media users, including conservative pundits, who were angry that Obama would connect the two events.
‘It sucks those kids died, but remember George Floyd? He’s who I’m still thinking about.’ — Barack Obama,’ tweeted Seth Dillon, the CEO of the right-wing news publication The Babylon Bee.
‘What in the world does the former have to do with the latter?’ conservative commentator Ben Shapiro asked.
Kira Davis, editor at the conservative blog Redstate, added, ‘Not a single grieving parent today gives a rip about what happened to Floyd or anyone right now. For crying out loud. This is not the time to be advertising for your favorite activist group. How utterly vile.’
Obama was in New York when he reached out to Philadelphia via Zoom. He also met with the Obama Foundation Scholars from around the world who are studying at Columbia University
On Wednesday, Obama faced backlash online for linking the Texas massacre to the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in a series of tweets about police reform
Others defended Obama’s tweet and insisted there was nothing wrong with him mourning two tragedies at once.
‘Barack’s post is NOT saying forget the kids, it is not a comparison post, it is an also post, simply pointing out that there is a long way to go to provide safety in America for ALL,’ one person tweeted. ‘Neither the kids nor George Floyd should have died. Too many kind of tragedies.’
‘For the folks in the peanut gallery, George Floyd was killed 2yrs ago today, May 25th 2020,’ someone else noted. ‘It’s not disrespectful to the children who were murdered yesterday to memorialize him on this day. We live in a violent country. One where yesterday 19 children & 2 teachers were gunned…’
Another agreed, ‘I think it’s a shame how people are acting like George Floyd’s murder isn’t related to the Uvalde shooting. Both remind us that our police need oversight desperately. Both remind us that murder is too easy in this country. And both deserve [remembrance] and grief.’
Obama, who was in New York City this week, had previously called on legislators to take action and reform gun control in wake of the Robb Elementary School massacre.
The message was quickly slammed online by many social media users, including conservative pundits, who were angry that Obama would connect the two events
However, others defended Obama’s tweet and insisted there was nothing wrong with him mourning two tragedies at once
Obama and his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, issued a statement about the Texas elementary school massacre on Tuesday
Taking to Twitter after the shooting, he said that both he and former First Lady Michelle Obama ‘grieve with the families in Uvalde who are experiencing pain no one should have to bear.’
‘Across the country, parents are putting their children to bed, reading stories, singing lullabies— and in the back of their minds, they’re worried about what might happen tomorrow after they drop their kids off at school, or take them to a grocery store or any other public space,’ he wrote.
Obama then recalled the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which occurred while he was in office.
‘Nearly ten years after Sandy Hook — and ten days after Buffalo — our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies,’ he said.
The statement concluded: ‘It’s long past time for action, any kind of action. And it’s another tragedy — a quieter but no less tragic one — for families to wait another day. May God bless the memory of the victims, and in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.’