A month ago, Ahmed Mohamed was in a juvenile detention center getting fingerprinted, accused of bringing a bomb to school. Monday, he had a brief chat — and got a hug — from President Obama.
And though the president had asked the 14-year-old to bring his now-infamous homemade clock with him to the White House, Ahmed kept the invention at home, the New York Times reported.
Mohamed catapulted to fame after his school called the police when they found the Sudanese-American student with the crude clock. They called it a suspicious item, but Mohamed said he brought it to show his engineering teacher. A teacher became suspicious, however, when she heard it beeping in English class.
He’s since said that he only wanted to impress one person, “but instead, I impressed the world,” he said.
Ahmed’s arrest and suspension inspired plenty of debate over Islam, immigration, and ethnicity, criticism and speculation about his motives, and a wave of support. After being pulled from school (Ahmed is now homeschooled), he’s since visited Google and met a cadre of world leaders: Queen Rania of Jordan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, and President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.
Conservatives were quick to point out that al-Bashir has been accused of genocide. But Mohamed’s father, Mohammed El Hassan, is Sudanese and ran for the country’s presidency twice.
After Ahmed’s arrest in September, Obama tweeted “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?” and “We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” However, the meet-and-greet between president and clock-maker wasn’t planned, noted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Mohamed just happened to be there.
Monday night was Astronomy night at the White House. The event celebrates space and joins together up-and-coming scientists, teachers, and astronauts to encourage more kids — especially those who’ve been underrepresented — to study math and science, CBS News added.
Mohamed attended alongside plenty of other youth. He sat and listened to Obama make a speech, in which he discussed the importance encouraging “glimmers of curiosity and possibility, not suppress them, not squelch them.”
President Obama delivering remarks at White House astronomy event; 14 yr-old clockmaker Ahmed Mohamed in attendance. pic.twitter.com/PPnP63RDHq— Stephen Crowley (@Stcrow) October 20, 2015
Afterward, Ahmed jostled to the front of the crowd to meet the president, who spoke to him briefly and gave him a hug. He said they talked about “Mars and 2030,” and a generator he’s making to help Mars colonists.
With a presidential meet-and-greet under his belt, it seems the controversy surrounding the young boy is winding down. Ahmed called the journey from arrest to White House visit an “experience of learning.”
“I learned that people would always be there to support you when there’s injustice. There’s a ton that I learned… I’m trying to get a message of how you shouldn’t judge a person by what they look like. You should always judge a person by their heart.”
According to the Huffington Post, Rep. Mike Honda of California has asked the U.S. Justice Department to look into Ahmed’s arrest, and the boy has become something of a champion for civil rights. Before the September incident with his clock, Mohamed said he’s faced discrimination before.
“I’m glad that this happened to me, because I get to spread my word out to the people.”
Meanwhile, the president’s brief meeting with Ahmed has outraged at least one person — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is also vying to run for president on the Republican ticket. Cruz said that Obama was more respectful to Mohamed than he’d been to police.
The press secretary countered Cruz’s comment by saying the president has made his respect for law enforcement known.
[Photo Courtesy Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images]