Obama, Kid Who Rubbed His Head in Famous Pic Reunite

Jacob Philadelphia, 5 when Pete Souza snapped photo, is now 18 and about to graduate high school
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2022 10:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Not every kid gets a video call from former President Barack Obama when they graduate high school. Jacob Philadelphia isn't just any kid, however. In 2009, Jacob, whose dad then served on the National Security Council, visited the White House as a 5-year-old and met up with Obama in the Oval Office, where the little guy expressed his fascination with one particular aspect of the commander in chief, per People. "Is your hair like mine?" Jacob asked the surprised president, whose response was to bend over and let the boy touch his head. "I think that's pretty much what I got," Jacob declared after the head rub, per CBS News.

White House official photographer Pete Souza was there to capture the moment, and the image soon went viral. It also ended up hanging for years on a wall in the West Wing. It's been 13 years since the photo was taken, and Jacob is now about to graduate high school in Uganda, where his family moved due to his dad's work with the State Department—which is why on Friday, Obama decided to surprise him this time, with a video call. "Is that Jacob? It's Barack Obama, man. Do you remember me?" the ex-president asked Jacob, now a young man of 18, complete with a bit of facial hair. Jacob says the photo with Obama was "a pretty big highlight of my life," and that, as young Black boy, it was "very wonderful to see representation in the government." Obama reflects in the video as well on that concept of representation.

"I think this picture embodied one of the hopes that I had when I first started running for office," he says in the video posted by his Obama Foundation. "Folks who maybe didn't always feel like they belonged, they'd look at themselves differently." Jacob told Obama he plans on attending the University of Memphis to study political science, to which Obama replied, "I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope." "Yes, it really has," Jacob responded. As for the photo of Jacob and Obama, Souza tells People it was one of about a thousand he took that day back in 2009, but "it was one of those small moments that grew in gravity as the years went by." Watch more of the video reunion between Obama and Jacob here. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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