An Indian Civilizational Perspective

“Are my hair just like yours, Mr. President?”

It is a tradition in White House that a departing staff members get to have photographs taken of their family with the President. So, Carlton Philadelphia, a Marine and member of the National Security Council, brought his family to get photographed with President Obama. Carlton, Roseane, and sons, Jacob and Isaac came in and the kids wanted to ask a question each.

Jacob’s question resulted in a picture which will remain one of the most memorable in Obama’s time in White House. This is the conversation Jacob had with Obama:

“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” he told Mr. Obama, so quietly that the president asked him to speak again.

Jacob did, and Mr. Obama replied, “Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?” He lowered his head, level with Jacob, who hesitated.

“Touch it, dude!” Mr. Obama said.

As Jacob patted the presidential crown, Mr. Souza snapped.

“So, what do you think?” Mr. Obama asked.

“Yes, it does feel the same,” Jacob said.

Thankfully the White House photographer Pete Souza was around to take this memorable picture, although it has many flaws – parents are cut off, the elder brother is blurred out, and the kid’s hand is in front of his face.

Basically, what the 5 year old Jacob was curious about was if a Black President was like him or not? And even further, if he had a shot at being where Obama is today. At his level, the answer was quite positive.

David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s longtime adviser, has a copy framed in his Chicago office. He said of Jacob, “Really, what he 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.”

When asked now – 8 years old – as to what he wanted to become when he grew up. He says he wants to be the President.

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