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Philadelphia, the son of then-National Security Council staffer Carlton Philadelphia, was 5 years old when he visited the Oval Office and asked Obama, “Is your hair like mine?” Obama then bent down and told him to touch his head. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’ve got,” Obama recalled Philadelphia saying.
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 before the now-teenager’s graduation from the International School of Uganda.
Philadelphia, whose father later joined the State Department, told the former President he plans to attend University of Memphis and will study political science.
“I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope,” Obama said in the video.
“Yes. It really has,” Philadelphia replied.
In the Instagram video, Obama also reflected on the iconic 2009 image, which hung in the West Wing for years during his presidency, the video noted.
“I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I’d had when I first started running for office,” Obama 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. 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 the moment and how he remembers 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 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.”
“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,” Philadelphia added.