Hmm thank you for that input!
Sadly it seems way more robust to just modify the server to ignore the semicolons. The second idea just wound up breaking apart symbol lists that are more than one word and really just doesn't look as elegant as send <text>. I'll share what I have here because it's working nicely now that I've dealt with the semicolons in the server.
The plan that I'm working on: I have created a display server app that accepts commands that draw into pixel buffers for two oled screens. I'm working on connecting pd such that it draws an array of points as connected lines as fast as it can then at the end requests the buffer to be displayed. That will cause a waveform to be displayed one one of the oled screens, and I can use the other display for simpler on/off type status.
Now on to the next problems I'm sure lie around the corner...
And here is the debug display from the server showing that it has constructed the pixel buffers correctly after drawing a diagonal line and placing some text: