Jacob Philadelphia Touches Obama's Hair: Story of Iconic Photo
A photo of President Obama bowing down to 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia so the boy can see if his hair feels the same as Obama's has been hanging in the west wing of the White House for three this month.
Jacob Philadelphia and his family were leaving the White House after his father, Carlton, a former Marine, was leaving the White House staff after a two-year stint on the National Security Council that began in the Bush administration. As departing staff members often do, Mr. Philadelphia asked for a family photograph with Mr. Obama.
Jacob and his brother Isaac both had questions to ask the president during the photograph session.
Jacob spoke up first, and asked “I want to know if my hair is just like yours,”
Obama: “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?” He lowered his head.
“Touch it, dude!”
As Jacob touched his head, photographer Pete Souza snapped the iconic picture.
Obama: “So, what do you think?”
Jacob: “Yes, it does feel the same,”
(Isaac asked Mr. Obama why he had eliminated the F-22 fighter jet. Mr. Obama said it cost too much.)
Johnathan Capehart of the Washington Post said of the photo: "The power of that photo taken by White House photographer Pete Souza had those two elements for me. A black man allowing his head to be touched by a stranger. But not just any stranger. A child seeking a familiar link between himself and the black man, who also happens to be the leader of the free world. Still, I don’t think I can ever articulate everything the Souza photo says to me."
David Axelrod, who has a copy framed in his Chicago office, said that the photo shows a young boy realizing that one day he could also be president.
“Really, what he was saying is, ‘Gee, you’re just like me.’ And it doesn’t take a big leap to think that child could be thinking, ‘Maybe I could be here someday.’ This can be such a cynical business, and then there are moments like that that just remind you that it’s worth it.”
Carlton Philadelphia, Jacob’s father, said:
“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.