Some images just capture a moment so well that they eventually become iconized. No doubt, Jacob Philadelphia, the young boy in the photo above, will look back fondly at his history making moment. The then-five-year-old Philadelphia had no idea that he was creating a historic photo opportunity when he patted President Barack Obama’s hair in 2009, but he did. The now 8-year-old boy had come to The White House with his father, a departing member of the White House Staff and National Security Council, and was curious about the President’s hair.
The New York Times reports:
“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” he told Mr. Obama, so quietly that the president asked him to speak again.
Jacob did, and Mr. Obama replied, “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?” He lowered his head, level with Jacob, who hesitated.
“Touch it, dude!” Mr. Obama said.
As Jacob patted the presidential crown, … [White House photographer Pete] Souza snapped.
“So, what do you think?” Mr. Obama asked.
“Yes, it does feel the same,” Jacob said.
White House photographer Pete Souza knew he had captured something special but had no idea just how much the photo would resonate with people.
“That one became an instant favorite of the staff. I think people are struck by the fact that the president of the United States was willing to bend down and let a little boy feel his head,” he told The New York Times. Obama’s advisor David Axelrod has a signed copy framed in his office. As of today, this New York Times story is the top story of the day, attesting to the sentiments and emotions and statements conveyed by this simple photo of the first Black President bowing to a young boy who looks like he could be his own son.
In a very subtle way, the photograph touches on what Obama has avoided in his role as President: race. As the reporter of this article Jackie Calmes asserts: “The photo is tangible evidence of what polls also show: Mr. Obama remains a potent symbol for blacks, with a deep reservoir of support. As skittish as White House aides often are in discussing race, they also clearly revel in the power of their boss’s example.”
The father of the now 8-year-old boy also reinforces that sentiment, telling The Times that “It’s important for black children to see a black man as president. You can believe that any position is possible to achieve if you see a black person in it.”
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