February marks Black History Month and for Obama, it marks the last time he will celebrate it as president. White House photographer Pete Souza capitalized on this sequence of events by snapping off a photo (above) that quickly went viral and spurred an inspirational hashtag: #ObamaAndKids.
In a White House e-mail on Friday, Souza's photo was sent out and captioned: "President Obama greets a young guest at Black History Month reception." Subsequent messages went out over social media:
The photo has shot to viral status with the help of a hashtag created by an activist, Michael Skolnik, who explained his reasoning behind #ObamaAndKids:
This would be the last Black History Month celebration at The White House during the presidency of the first African-American in the history of The United States to hold the highest office in the land…
The President reached out to touch the boy’s face, and the remarkable White House photographer Pete Souza, did what he does best; snapped another iconic photograph of President Obama and a child who innocently knows nothing of the importance of that moment.
Then I started thinking about all of the other children in this country and what it means for them. What it means for them to have this president, at this time, leading this country through this incredibly difficult transition.
I want my child and all children to be able to one day fully understand just how extraordinary of a President, Barack Obama has been. I wish that one day they will understand and appreciate his compassion, his generosity and his commitment to equity for every person in this nation and the world.
There hasn't been this much media excitement about a photo since the one in 2009 when a young black child of a Marine visited with the president inside the Oval Office and touched Obama's hair to make sure it felt just like his. The New York Times gushed about that moment in a 2012 article:
"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, ... [White House photographer Pete] Souza snapped.
"So, what do you think?" Mr. Obama asked.
"Yes, it does feel the same," Jacob said.
The Times further opined that the president had so far avoided talking about race during his first term, but insisted that that photo captured "tangible evidence" that Obama "remains a potent symbol for blacks, with a deep reservoir of support." But as the president now reaches the end of his second term, there is no question that race and identity was a central platform of his administration -- even NPR agrees.
Along with these photos celebrating Black History Month, the White House also published video of Barack and Michelle receiving a 106-year-old guest on her first visit to the White House. When meeting the president and first lady, a very excited Virginia McLaurin said:
I thought I would never live to get in the White House. And I tell you, I am so happy -- a black president, a black wife, and I'm here to celebrate black history.