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Thursday, February 18, 2016. The White House. Washington, DC. President Barack Obama was about to enter the room, when I noticed a young boy standing next to me, dressed in a jacket and tie, looking to get to the front of the crowd. 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. When I asked the young boy if he needed help, he turned to me, and with a smile, he kept it moving, with his mother behind him, he led her around the various adults in his way, ultimately disappearing into the crowd in front.
This event would become historical. Not because of any major announcement the President or The First Lady would make from the podium, but because of a photo of that young boy, dressed in a jacket and tie, that would capture the attention of the world. They ultimately got to the front, standing against the rope that separated, by only a few feet, the audience from Barack and Michelle.
When the President finished his speech, he came down to the rope-line to greet the invited guests, and eventually arrived at the feet of the young boy. 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.
We’ll probably never truly be able to measure the impact that President Barack Obama has had on our children.
Two days later, I was sitting on my couch, early in the morning, with my soon-to-be 3-year-old son, Mateo Ali, on my lap. We were doing what we do every Saturday morning, watching cartoons, eating bagels and drinking coco verde (coconut water — he speaks Spanish too).
As I was flipping through my morning routine on my phone, I came across Pete Souza’s photo of the young boy from the Black History Month celebration. With my son in my arms, I couldn’t help to think about the impact President Obama will have on my son. A young boy, named Mateo Ali Skolnik, whose generation has been forever changed by the presidency of a man named, Barack Hussein Obama.
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 wish my son understood this, but he was too concerned with his cartoons and getting as much cream cheese as he could on his face.
I wish my son understood this, but he was too concerned with his cartoons and getting as much cream cheese as he could on his face.
We’ll probably never truly be able to measure the impact that President Barack Obama has had on our children. As we enter the final year of his presidency, we will cherish and hold onto the great moments of progress and accomplishment.
We will celebrate not just Barack Obama as a president, but also as a husband and a father. A man who has led this country with a deep love for all of it citizens, especially the ones who have yet to understand the historical meaning of the past 8 years.
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.
With that simple wish, I wrote a simple tweet, encouraging people to share their favorite photos of the President with children.
People responded, with their love and admiration for our President, posting photo after photo, ultimately creating a story of their own; #ObamaAndKids trended worldwide!
Michael Skolnik is an entrepreneur, activist and the proud father of Mateo Ali. Most recently, Michael was the President of GlobalGrind, a company owned by Russell Simmons, which they sold last year.