Revealed in yesterday's New York Times is the backstory to one of the more iconic White House photos shot by resident photographer Pete Souza: President Obama's hair being stroked by then-five-year-old Jacob Philadelphia.
According to the Times, unlike most other West Wing photos, this particular snapshot has remained in place for the past three years. "The image has struck so many White House aides and visitors," writes Jackie Calmes, "that by popular demand it stays put while others come and go."
The scene came about after Jacob, son of a departing National Security Council staff member, asked the president if their hair was similar. Both of the Philadelphia boys, Jacob and his brother Issac, were given permission by their parents to ask the president one question each (they later said they did not know in advance what their kids were going to ask).
Jacob spoke first.
"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.
(Isaac, now 11, asked Mr. Obama why he had eliminated the F-22 fighter jet. Mr. Obama said it cost too much, Isaac and his parents recounted.)
Speaking to the significance of his son's seemingly odd request, Carlton Philadelphia said it was "important for black children to see a black man as president," adding that "you can believe that any position is possible to achieve if you see a black person in it."
[photo via White House Flickr]