Former President Barack Obama took to Instagram on Friday to congratulate Jacob Philadelphia, the boy who touched Obama’s head in an iconic 2009 White House photo on his high school graduation .
Philadelphia, the son of Carlton Philadelphia, then a National Security Council staffer, was 5 years old when he visited the Oval Office and asked Obama, “Is your hair like mine?” Obama then leaned over and told him to touch his head. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I got,” Obama recalled saying in Philadelphia.
The moment was captured by White House photographer Pete Souza, and the photo, which Souza later named “Hair Like Mine”, was celebrated for highlighting the importance of representation.
Obama reconnected with Philadelphia on Zoom ahead of the now-teen’s graduation from the International School of Uganda.
Philadelphia, whose father later joined the State Department, told the former president he planned to attend the University of Memphis and study political science.
“I think the visit to the White House definitely inspired you, I hope,” Obama said in the video.
“Yes. It really is,” Philadelphia replied.
In the Instagram video, Obama also reflected on the iconic image from 2009, which hung in the West Wing for years during his presidency, the video notes.
“I think this photo embodies one of the hopes I had when I started running for office,” Obama said.
“I remember saying to Michelle and some of my team members, 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 didn’t if they didn’t always feel like they belonged, they looked at each other differently. To see someone who looked like them in the Oval Office. That would speak to black kids and to Latino children and gay children and young girls – how they might see the world opening up to them,” the former president said.
Philadelphia also spoke about when and how he remembers that day in the Oval Office.
“When I was younger, I thought the president was just my dad’s boss. I didn’t know how powerful he was,” Philadelphia said in the video. I remember touching his hair and seeing him dominate me. It was a pretty big highlight of my life.
“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 follow that lead,” Philadelphia added.