COP26 Adaptation, Loss and Damage - Day Nine

Barack Obama reunites with a boy from adorable viral moment 13 years later

Obama reunited with Jacob Philadelphia, the boy that memorably asked Obama about his hair while visiting the Oval Office in 2009.

Barack Obama shared a video of one of the most emblematic and heartwarming moments of his presidency. The video, shared on his Instagram, shows a reunion between himself and Jacob Philadelphia, a now high schooler who has a photo with Obama that has become one of the most emblematic moments in his presidency.

In 2009, Carlton Philadelphia was a former staffer of the National Security Agency. He and his two sons were touring the Oval Office. Jacob Philadelphia, his youngest, curiously asked Obama if his hair was like his. “Go ahead, touch it,” said Obama, bending down and offering his head for Jacob, resulting in a photograph that many have called a highlight of his presidency, embodying the message of inclusivity and possibility of Obama’s time in office.

The video provides some background on the photo and features a reunion between Obama and Philadelphia, the 5-year-old boy who is now graduating from high school. “You remember me?” asks Obama when chatting on Zoom with Philadelphia. “Yeah, I remember you telling me your hair was going to be gray next time,” said Jacob, making Obama laugh. “And I was not lying!”

Obama then discussed the image, which hung in the West Wing for years when he served as president. “I think this picture embodies one of the hopes I had when I first started running for office,” he said. “I remember telling Michelle and my staff, I think that if I were to win, young people, particularly African-Americans, people of color, outsiders, folks who maybe didn’t always feel like they belonged, they’d look at themselves differently.”

Philadelphia also discussed his perspective on their meeting, sharing how significant a moment it was for his life. “It was a really big room, the Oval office,” he said. “So 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.”

Jacob Philadelphia is now graduating from high school and is planning on studying Political Sciences in the University of Memphis. “I think the White House visit clearly inspired you, I hope,” Obama said.

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