Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The image is three years old, but it still hangs in the White House and it will probably resonate with African Americans forever -- a small boy, patting President Obama on the head to find out if they really had something in common.
“I want to know if my hair is just like yours,” said then-eight-year-old Jacob Philadelphia to Barack Obama. Jacob was in the Oval Office because his dad was just finishing a two-year commitment on the National Security Council, and the family was there for a farewell photo op.
Being the obliging kind of guy he is, the president leaned over to let Jacob give his crown a rub to see for himself that the first African American president's hair did, in fact, feel just like his. When Jacob hesitated, the president reportedly encouraged him by saying, "Touch it, dude!"
While this is a particularly touching small moment, it also makes bigger statement about how race still impacts our lives today, and why the president is likely to maintain support among black voters, even though some analysts think his recent statement of support for gay marriage could cost him votes among African Americans. Just as many white voters liked George W. Bush because they could relate to the idea of having a beer with him, it shouldn't be a surprise that African Americans who still have to contend with race-related issues today see some hope when the leader of the free world belongs to their community.
As New York Times writer Jackie Calmes explained in her article about the interaction, "[T]he photo is tangible evidence of what polls also show: Mr. Obama remains a potent symbol for blacks, with a deep reservoir of support. As skittish as White House aides often are in discussing race, they also clearly revel in the power of their boss's example."
You can read more from iVillage iVote Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of the Amazon bestseller, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.