Opinion: Obama’s gray hair: White House pressure or heredity?


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The New York Times made quite a bit this morning about President Obama‘s gray hair, noting that after only 44 days in office, the president -- facing a global economic meltdown, two wars and a growing cadre of Americans who are out of work and at risk for losing their homes -- is already turning gray.

Well, that didn’t take long,’ wrote the Times’ Helene Cooper. ‘Just 44 days into the job, and President Obama is going gray.’


But the truth is that Obama started going gray -- and noticeably so -- on the campaign trail, as any number of reporters commented on at the time.

Jon Swaine of Britain’s Telegraph wrote in October, ‘As he enters the final few days of his campaign, with hundreds of sleepless nights behind him, patches of salt and pepper that have sprouted all over his head mark out Mr. Obama, now 47, as a man firmly in middle age.’

Obama started talking about his flecks of gray back in the summer. ‘When I started this campaign people called me a young man,’ he often said. ‘They’re not calling me that anymore.’ Even the NYT had the grace to acknowledge that candidate Obama spoke about his graying locks at a campaign rally in Virginia last August, saying:

I’ve been running for president for about 19 months now. Folks are noticing that I’ve got a lot more gray hair now than when I started.

In fact some critics wondered if candidate Obama, then 46 to rival John McCain’s 72, was dyeing his hair gray to look more distinguished. New York Magazine headlined its piece: ‘Team Obama Pulls the ‘Gray Hair’ Stunt Again.’

Maybe it’s heredity.

Still no one is denying that presidents gray in office. Just take a look at the last guy, George W. Bush.


-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo (top left): Obama in January 2008. Credit: Associated Press; Photo (top right): Obama in October 2008 Credit: Reuters