By now, you’ve probably seen and heard a lot about Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. You may have heard the crowd size was somewhere in the tens of thousands (It was actually at least 300,000). You also may have heard the event was more “religious revival” than political rally (since when was discussing God in public a bad thing?). And you may have heard the audience was mostly old, white, tea party goers (I saw a diverse crowd with people of all ages).
Unlike some commentators and pundits, who’ve reacted to the event without even being there, I have a first-hand account of what happened on the National Mall. Because I had never attended a rally prior to yesterday, I have the advantage of not prejudging the event based on past-experiences, although I will openly admit that I am in virtual agreement on political and moral issues with the majority of “Restoring Honor” attendees.
My journey to the “Restoring Honor” rally began about a week before the event took place. Not that I camped out on the mall to get a good position, but I began to weigh whether I should attend or not. I had heard about the rally a number of times, but it never clicked in my mind that I would be in D.C. during the event. Now that I live in the D.C. area, I have no problem attending interesting political and non-political venues.
I’ll admit, I was worried about attending the event. What would other people think about me (colleges aren’t exactly open-minded when it comes to conservative ideas)? If violence broke out at the event, would I get caught in it? I also worried the event would be a target of left-wing hate groups, the usual instigators at right-wing events (they pretend to be tea-party supporters and say racist things to impugn the tea party movement).
Luckily, Friday night, a friend of mine who is like-minded sent a message to me on Facebook. Rather than go with a group of liberals in it for the “entertainment,” this person wanted to know if we could go together. So we did.
Waking up early Saturday morning, I gathered all the necessary items for an adventure in D.C. Slowly creeping out of my dorm room, trying not to wake my roommate, I made my way to the staircase, walked up one flight of stairs, and met my friend by the door. We took a shuttle to the Metro station, waited for the train to arrive, and stood, mouths agape, as the completely packed Metro train passed us by, slowing down and stopping at the station. We had never seen the Metro so packed, especially with out-of-towners.
At this point, I began to feel overwhelmed with emotion. These people, from all over the country, made the trek into Washington not for the chance to see Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck—although that did sweeten the deal—but to join with hundreds of thousands of Americans to express patriotic ideals. These people aren’t just angry with the government: they are sick and tired of dishonorable and corrupt leadership in all facets of society.
The Metro ride by itself was an unforgettable adventure. Being that this was the first Metro ride for many of the rally-goers, there were a lot of “Is this our stop?” questions being asked. Fortunately, when you are part of a group so big, someone in the front knows what they are doing. Additionally, Glenn Beck’s website provided very clear instructions, which helped out a great deal. Many of the Metro-riders were talking amongst themselves, and a palpable level of excitement was in the air. The funny part was seeing locals squeezed in among the rally-goers. They didn’t like having to squeeze through the aisle to get off at their stops.
One woman and her family, including her child with Down Syndrome (Many families of children with Down Syndrome attended the event, inspired by Sarah Palin’s family and event honoree, St. Louis Cardinal first-baseman Albert Pujols, who’s wife has a child with Down Syndrome), got aboard the Metro with linked arms, a good strategy because if the Metro doors close, and you’re stuck halfway in and halfway out, they don’t reopen automatically like NYC’s subway system: The conductor must open them back up, which he was doing a lot on Saturday morning. I saw no family get separated.
After the long Metro ride (by this point it was 9:30, half an hour before start time), we reemerged into the sunlight and onto the sidewalks of D.C. A long stream of people, hundreds if not thousands in front and behind me, shuffled past the various t-shirt and pin vendors that hoped to cash-in on the event.
I stopped at a pin vendor to pick up an “LOL” pin (The ‘O’ is the Obama campaign symbol):
The large mass of people crossed street after street, until we finally came to the WWII memorial, which is at the far end of the National Mall. My friend and I continued to walk, weaving in and out of the crowd as many stopped to set up chairs in front of a large jumbotron, one of the many that Mr. Beck’s crew assembled to give attendees a better view of the action. There was also a large swath of land populated by hundreds of porta potties:
And, of course, the long lines of people waiting to pee. Hopefully just pee, otherwise Don’s Johns would be pretty nasty.
We finally arrived at the perfect spot. Shade from trees, a relatively good view of screen and stage (although the people on stage looked like ants) and amicable people surrounding us were what made that spot perfect. One person near us had on a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt, and after asking where he’s from, my friend discovered he is from our hometown.
We arrived at our perfect spot at the perfect time, because minutes later the rally began, Glenn Beck took the stage, and the event of a lifetime was underway. I started to tear up, that’s how overwhelming the event was to me. Mr. Beck, taking a shot at the media and making the audience laugh, joked “I just got word from the media there are one thousand people hear.”
After that, a long opening prayer. There was a lot of praying during the event, which may have taken some, especially the media, by surprise. Mr. Beck is a Mormon, and some in the media have made a big deal out of this, since many evangelicals consider Mormonism a cult. You wouldn’t have known that by the huge numbers of evangelicals attending the event, let alone the ministers on the stage.
Next, after a short word from Beck, the President of the Special Operations Warrior Fund, the charity benefiting from the event, spoke. Mr. John Carney also introduced a benefactor and volunteer with his organization, the mother of a soldier killed during Desert Storm when his helicopter came under fire. She spoke of her grandson, eight months old at the time. He heard his father wasn’t coming back because the helicopter was broke, so he got out his toy toolkit and said he was going to fix his daddy’s helicopter. I wasn’t the only one tearing up at that.
Next, Glenn Beck introduced Sarah Palin, not as a political figure, but as the mom of a combat vet (her son, Track, served in Iraq). Her speech was met with huge cheers, including the lines, “I am speaking, of course, of America’s finest – our men and women in uniform, a force for good in this country, and that is nothing to apologize for.” and “I must assume that you too know that we must not fundamentally transform America as some [Obama] would want. We must restore America and restore her honor!” (emphasis mine). Both were thinly veiled shots at President Obama, but other than that, the speech was non-partisan. On the whole, it was impressive, despite being, as one news report stated, “vague.”
Gov. Palin introduced three combat vets as heroes, including one whose hands were severed in battle. These three men were just a few of the many honorees who demonstrated honor in their lives.
Next to speak was a Native American leader, introducing the “Faith” award winner, Pastor C.L. Jackson. His speech was very moving and filled with religious themes. He also stated that he saw Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in person.
Then St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa introduced the “Hope” award winner, Cardinals player Albert Pujols. He talked, in part, about his strong faith in Jesus Christ that began twelve years ago. The audience applauded.
Next a former Texas Supreme Court judge, Raul Gonzalez, introduced the “Charity” award winner, Jon Huntsman Sr., a billionaire who developed a cancer center, homeless shelters, and battered women shelters, among many things. He’s pledged to “die a broke man.” His son, Jon Huntsman Jr., is the former Governor of Utah and current Ambassador to China. Mr. Huntsman, Sr. could not attend (one of Mr. Huntsman’s sixty grandchildren was getting married), but an African American women who was treated for stage 3 breast cancer at his clinic accepted the award on his behalf.
Then a short video about Dr. King aired. Much had been made about the event occurring on the 47th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Most of this was nonsense ginned up by Al Sharpton and his pathetic minions, but the mainstream media picked up on this and ran with it in an attempt to smear the event. As Mr. Beck stated, it was an unintentional coincidence.
Dr. King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, spoke, making religious references like all the other speakers. Then some gospel singing by a few black women and short religious readings by black ministers, followed by some more thoughts from Dr. Alveda King. Like many of the speakers, including Beck, she proclaimed that hatred and division must be eradicated from America. The crowd cheered for her, her Uncle, and her message.
When Dr. King left the podium, Glenn Beck took the stage, embarking on a fifty-minute sermon-like speech that rallied the crowd and gave many of us goosebumps. He stated his belief that “One man can change the world” and that the next George Washington was in the crowd. He “might be eight,” but Glenn said he or she was in the audience. He also urged parents to pray on their knees, with the door open, so their children could see them. I posted a link to the full speech yesterday.
After his rousing speech, 240 religious leaders joined him on the stage, part of a “Black Robe Brigade,” inspired by a group of religious leaders by the same name that first spoke out against British rule in America. Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” as the entire crowd sang along, then a Vietnam vet, whose face was scarred from a phosphorus grenade and who nearly committed suicide, gave the closing prayer. He became a minister after developing a new-found faith in God.
The entire event was inspirational. As I left the Mall and wandered up 15th Street, I reflected on what it all meant. I still don’t know for sure, although the mainstream media are spinning this as a way for Glenn Beck to reinvent himself as a conservative christian leader, possibly even preparing for a Beck-Palin Presidential ticket in 2012. Of course, anyone who knows Beck knows he doesn’t like politics very much. He just speaks out because he feels it’s his duty. Not that the media care: They are delusional.
Rather than comment further, I think I should give you some links to important, and mostly accurate, news reports about the event and it’s aftermath.