Change is still possible, said former President Barack Obama, who cited the haircut of a Black gay state representative as an example.
“If you don’t think things have changed, having a brother in the state legislature with that haircut, that is a change, that looks sharp, but I'm just saying, man, you didn’t see that 20 years ago," Obama quipped to State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta of Pennsylvania's 181st District.
"My hairstylist thanks you," replied Kenyatta, joking that they would cut the video clip of the praise as an endorsement.
The exchange occurred at a Wednesday roundtable of Black community leaders in Philadelphia centered on sparking voter turnout among young people. This week, Obama began campaigning for his former vice president, Joe Biden, in his presidential run against Donald Trump.
Kenyatta is indeed a representative of change; he was part of 2018's "rainbow wave" in which over 150 LGBTQ+ candidates won offices at the federal, state, and local levels during the midterm elections. Kenyatta, now 30, became the first openly gay person of color to join the state House of Representatives.
At the Wednesday roundtable, Kenyatta questioned Obama about his own belief in progress. "When you ran for office, your slogan, hope, and change. The last couple of years have been a lot of sadness and destruction. What still gives you hope?" he asked.
"Hope is not blind optimism," Obama replied. "Hope is not ignoring problems. Hope is believing, in the face of difficulty, that we can overcome and get a better world. Hope is looking squarely at our challenges and our shortcomings and saying, 'Despite that, I think through effort and will and community, we can make things better.'
"And so, I’ve never lost hope over these last four years. I’ve been mad, I’ve been frustrated, but I haven’t lost hope."
Watch the exchange below.