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Little Boy Patting President Obama’s Head Inspires the Web

Young Boy Pats President Obama on the Head
Pete Souza/White House

Yesterday, the New York Times revealed the backstory behind the memorable image of a five-year-old boy stroking President Barack Obama’s head. Turns out, the photo isn’t just adorable. It’s also a powerful statement on race and Obama’s role as America’s first African-American president.

According to the Times article, the scene took place when Jacob Philadelphia, the young son of a White House staffer, wondered whether Obama’s hair felt like his. So, Obama bent low and gave the young boy a chance to pat his head. After doing so, Philadelphia proclaimed, “Yes, it does feel the same.” White House photographer Pete Souza was there to capture the event.

“As a photographer, you know when you have a unique moment. But I didn’t realize the extent to which this one would take on a life of its own,” Souza said. “That one became an instant favorite of the staff. I think people are struck by the fact that the president of the United States was willing to bend down and let a little boy feel his head.”

But Obama adviser David Axelrod thinks the photo has an even more important message: “Really, what [Philadelphia] 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.”

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