“The White House had a black history month reception where they honored civic and community leaders and highlighted civil rights. We were fortunate enough to be invited to attend, and I was allowed to bring a guest. As I was thinking through who would enjoy the opportunity to go the White House, I thought about Clark. He has been learning about the president through watching the news, and hearing my husband and I talk about him at home. I thought there’s no better person to take to meet President Obama than Clark.
When we arrived he just thought, “Oh, I’m going to meet President Obama.”
When we got there people were already assembled in the room eating. So we stopped to eat, and then Clark just took off as I was still eating. I guess he just wanted to see what was happening. He walked through the crowd saying, “Excuse me, excuse me.” Meanwhile I was running behind him trying to keep up! He ended up right on the rope line. He stood through the whole speech listening. When the President and First Lady came down from the stage, they were greeting guests and because there were lots of people there, people kept pushing closer and closer.
The President and the First Lady came down and immediately saw him because he was so little.
While the President was speaking, Clark had been messing around with his tie. If you notice in the picture one part of the tie is over the rope, and one part is under. So the President came around and was trying to fix it while he was talking to him. He and the First Lady were concerned about all the people and whether he was ok. Incredible.
It was a blessing to be invited, and it was a blessing to be able to take him. This was his first president. The fact that he remembers and they spent some quality time and they made this connection was so cool.
Pete Souza, the White House photographer, took the photos. I later found out that he had inquired within the White House to find out who this boy was or if anyone knew who he belonged to. I had some friends from when I worked on Capitol Hill that now work in the White House who said, “Oh yeah, that’s Nichole’s son!”
He sent me an email and said, "I understand this is your son I’d love to talk to you more about the picture."
About a week or two later, he asked if I could arrange time to come to the White House because he had something he wanted to give me. I met his assistant outside of the White House and she gave me the photo. President Obama had autographed it.
It’s amazing. It’s such an iconic photo and has inspired so many people. When you look at how Clark is looking up at the president, he identifies with him—it’s someone who looks like him, a strong man that he connected with. It shows him that he can be whatever he wants to be.
It just continues to pop up in different places. When we learned about Time magazine featuring it, and when Pete Souza picked his favorite photos we thought “Wow, this is awesome.” It’s amazing. It’s part of history. It’s a source of hope and inspiration and strength for all of us. It provides us with memories of President Obama and the policies and the things he’s done. The focus on children and education, the emphasis on creating opportunities for everyone, and again giving hope to young kids.
He could’ve just walked along, but he actually took time to stop and talk to him. We’ll always remember the eight years we had with him as president. Clark thinks the president is his friend.
We'll hang it in Clark’s room. When he learns to read, he’ll be able to have this be a part of his everyday life. Being able to read the president’s message should inspire him.”
- Nichole Francis Reynolds, Clark's mom