Former President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House exemplified the importance of representation. Within the barrier-breaking civic leader, people from different walks of life saw themselves reflected, even the youngest of citizens. Jacob Philadelphia—one of the children inspired by the former president—received a special message from Obama ahead of his high school graduation.
Jacob met Obama in 2009 during a visit to the Oval Office. The youngster, then five-years-old, was at the White House with his father Carlton Philadelphia who was formerly part of the National Security Council. When meeting Obama Jacob asked, “Is your hair like mine?” and the then-president allowed him to touch his hair.
The youngster’s inquiry led to a viral photo captured by renowned photographer Pete Souza dubbed “Hair Like Mine.” The heartwarming image is part of a collective of photographs taken by Souza that illustrate Obama’s indelible influence and impact. The photo lived on a wall in the West Wing for years during Obama’s presidency.
Before Jacob’s high school graduation on Friday, he received a video call from the former president. The two reminisced about Jacob’s visit to the White House and Obama congratulated him on his milestone.
“That was a pretty big highlight of my life,” Jacob shared. “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.”
Obama added the image “embodied one of the hopes I had when I first started running for office.” He stated he hoped “folks who maybe always didn’t feel like they belonged, they’d look at themselves differently.” Jacob—who graduated from the International School of Uganda—plans to pursue a degree in political science at the University of Memphis.
The heartfelt reunion comes after it was announced the Obama Foundation is teaming up with Airbnb to create scholarships for aspiring civic leaders.