Armstrong: Let's help Spelman grads plan epic sendoff for Pres. Obama

Amanda Washington Lockett (left) and Bejidé A. Davis are Spelman University graduates planning a goodbye event for President Obama on Inauguration Day.

Ìt will be hard to say goodbye to President Obama.

But what if instead of sulking about the next four years, we plan an epic sendoff to end all sendoffs? I picture a festive parade with bands playing and people lining the streets holding signs as Obama's motorcade slowly makes its way from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the final time.

I envision Obama's being so moved by the outpouring of love and emotion that he and Michelle Obama emerge from their limousine and walk down the street just as they did during both Inauguration parades. We could make it into a huge celebration and dance them off into the sunset - not that they're going all that far since the family plans to stay in D.C. for the forseeable future. This has been a crazy idea that's just been percolating in my head, giving me a chuckle.

Until now.

It turns out that a couple of Spelman College grads have had a similar idea about an Obama sendoff but they have actually taken steps to turn their vision into a reality. They plan to host a giant event during which voters would stand and applaud the Obamas as their era comes to an end. What they're planning would be a dignified yet rousing tribute befitting such an historic presidency.

Bejide' A. Davis, a corporate finance attorney in New York City, said the idea came to her during a random conversation with her older brother about wanting to do something to honor Obama's tenure. The 29-year-old recalled saying that, "I kind of just want to stand outside the White House and give him a round of applause." Her brother responded, "Do you mean like a fifth-grade clap out?" (A clap out is when teachers at some elementary schools applaud graduating students on their last day of class.) The idea stuck with Davis.

But like me, she didn't do anything with it. Davis figured that someone somewhere in some official capacity had to have been thinking and planning along those lines already. Then, the night that Obama gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, Davis was so inspired by the things he said that she put up a Facebook post about what she envisioned for his final full day in office.

The next day, she checked back and found that more than 500 friends had agreed to meet up with her in D.C. When she noticed the number continuing to grow, Davis knew she was onto something. So, she enlisted the aid of former college roommate Amanda Washington Lockett, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania who interned at the White House during the Obama administration.

Together, they assembled an impressive management team of people they know from Spelman and Morehouse, both historically black colleges in Atlanta, to help them secure sponsors to pay for security and buses and possibly even a venue where attendees can congregate. The commemoration would take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration. It would feature special guests and speakers - if they're lucky, maybe even the Obamas.

"Think of New Year's Eve when the ball drops. That moment, it's only a second in time," Davis told me recently. "People celebrate for another 20 minutes afterward. They are cheering. They are laughing. They are having a great time. That's kind of what we envision for the moment the clap out happens... It will be a time of celebration and appreciation."

Lockett, 29, whose great great grandfather, Booker T. Washington, was the first African American invited to dine at the White House, added, "We want it to be something that we can be proud of but more importantly, we want it to be something that the American people can be proud of and that Pres. Barack Obama can be proud of."

Everyone I've talked to about it likes the idea. Given Obama's high approval ratings, turnout could be really high. The Thanks, Obama page on Facebook had 119,000 likes at press time, with 42,000 followers indicating that they planned to attend the sendoff.

Davis and Lockett have established accounts on Instagram @ThanksObamaTeam and Twitter @ThxObamaTeam. Their website is saythanksobama.com.

There's still well over a month before Jan. 19. That's not a whole lot of time when you're trying to plan something really epic.

Organizers draw their inspiration from Obama himself who campaigned using the slogan, "Yes we can."

He could.And he did. And the world is a better place for it.

As Davis aptly pointed out, "He is the embodiment of making 'the impossible,' possible."

So, let's go for it.


@JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

armstrj@phillynews.com