On Obama’s last day in office, a final tribute
WASHINGTON — On the eve of the pres- idential inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, about 800 people gathered Thursday to celebrate and applaud President Barack Obama on his last day in office.
An energetic and di- verse crowd gathered at the Arena Stage for an evening full of music, dancing, artwork, food and drink to show their gratitude for the coun- try’s first black president and the legacy he will leave behind.
First popularized by an internet meme, the phrase “Thanks Obama” had been widely used by Obama’s critics to sar- castically thank him for anything ranging from health-care reform to per- sonal troubles.
The “Thanks, Obama” event organizers sought to use the non-sarcastic, sincere meaning of the phrase to bring Obama’s supporters together “to show appreciation and gratitude to the nation’s 44th president on his last day of office,” according to the Thanks, Obama website.
“These past eight years have meant a lot to me, and gave me hope,” Geor- gia McElroy, 41, of Balti- more said. “I’m happy to be here and celebrate his legacy.”
Several people traveled across the country to show their gratitude for the outgoing president.
“I’m here to show my appreciation for, I think, one of the greatest pres- idents we’ve ever had,” Caroline Howard of Los Angeles said. “I think that he was very admira- ble and gracious in all the things that he did in the face of all the criticism and all the negative and disrespectful things that were said about him and to him.”
Most guests heard about the event through Facebook, but some found it through different means. Dan and Trevi Housholder of Seattle discovered it through Google searches.
“We had two goals,” Dan Housholder said. “One was to go to the Women’s March and the other was to figure out some way to thank Obama…. We just want- ed to find some way to deal with the [2016 pres- idential] election results.”
Halau Ho’omau, a Ha- waiian band and dance troupe, kicked off the evening with a traditional Hawaiian performance as a nod to Obama’s upbringing in the Island State. The dancers wore long red skirts and pukka shell necklaces, their hair fastened with leaf barrettes, and hula-ed to the music.
Washington-based band Jus Paul played several songs, including a cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” but changed the song’s lyrics to better fit the oc- casion. The crowd joined in as the band sang the song’s chorus, “Obama, no cry” and “Obama, goodbye.”
“We were trying to fig- ure out how to contribute and how to really honor Obama through a song, and there really are no songs out,” Jus Paul band member Paul Spires said. “We just got creative and came up with it.”
The evening concluded with a “clap-out” that began with a minute-long roar of cheers, claps and screams, and soon turned into one minute of chanting such phrases as “Thanks Obama” and “Michelle 2020.”
“It was amazing. I saw a lot of people crying, get- ting emotional,” Naeema Butt, 26, of Arlington, Va., said.
Butt moved to the Unit- ed States from Pakistan six months ago and said she has been fascinated watching the transition of power between Obama and Trump and said she