Barack Obama reunites with the boy who touched his head in iconic ‘Hair Like Mine’ photo

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 (Pete Souza / The White House)
(Pete Souza / The White House)

On 26 May, former US President Barack Obama shared his virtual reunion with Jacob Philadelphia, the boy who famously touched his head in the 2009 photo Hair Like Mine.

Jacob Philadelphia was just five years old when he visited the White House with his father, former National Security Council staffer Carlton Philadelphia. While standing in the Oval Office, he asked President Barack Obama, “Is your hair like mine?” The former president leaned down and told the young boy to touch his hair to find out. Obama said, “Well, what do you think?” to which Philadelphia replied, “Yeah, I think that’s pretty much what I’ve got.”

The iconic moment, later dubbed Hair Like Mine, was captured by White House photographer Pete Souza.

In the video posted to Obama’s website and social media platforms on Friday, the former president congratulated Philadelphia on his high school graduation, and reflected on his interaction with the young boy nearly 13 years ago.

“Is that Jacob?” the former president said in a Zoom call with Philadelphia before his graduation from the International School of Uganda. “It’s Barack Obama, man. Do you remember me?”

Throughout the five-minute clip, Philadelphia said meeting President Obama in the Oval Office was a “pretty big highlight of my life”. He informed Obama of his plans to study political science at the University of Memphis, which the former president claimed was inspired by his White House visit.

“I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I’d had when I first started running for office,” Obama said in the video.

“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. 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,” the former President said.

Philadelphia also spoke about how the iconic moment impacted him.

“When I was younger, I just thought the President was just my dad’s boss. I didn’t know how powerful he was,” Philadelphia said in the video. “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.”

He added, “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.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” the former president wrote on his website. “Congratulations, Jacob, and best of luck to the Class of 2022.”

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