May 31, 2022
Photo by: Pete Souza | Courtesy of Little, Brown and Co., New York It seems like yesterday when this iconic photo was taken! On Friday, former President Barack Obama took to Instagram to share his reunion with Jacob Philadelphia and congratulate him on his recent high school graduation. Philadelphia is the 5-year-old boy who, in an iconic 2009 White House portrait, was captured caressing Obama’s head. “Is your hair like mine?” Philadelphia, the son of then-National Security Council staffer Carlton Philadelphia, asked Obama when they met in the Oval Office. Obama then leaned over and instructed him to place his hand on his head. Obama recalled Philadelphia saying, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ve got.” Obama shared the emotional reconnection on Instagram, stunned that it had been 13 years since the photo was taken. “It’s hard to believe 13 years have passed. Today, Jacob will graduate high school and continue on to the University of Memphis to study political science. And I couldn’t be more proud of him,” the former president stated. Obama took time to reconnect with the recent graduate over Zoom. He told the former President that he intends to attend the University of Memphis to study political science.
“I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope,” Obama said after learning that the high school graduate. The 18-year-old credited his father’s employment at the State Department for allowing him to “meet people and see their ideals of how they want to change the world.” In the video, Obama revealed that the photograph, taken by former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza, hung in the West Wing for years during his presidency.
“I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I’d had when I first started running for office,” he 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.” Philadelphia also discussed the occasion and how he recalls that day in the Oval Office. “When I was younger, I just thought the President was just my dad’s boss. I didn’t know how powerful he was,” Philadelphia revealed. “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.” Philadelphia continued, saying it was 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.
Congratulations Jacob! We love this heartwarming full-circle moment!