I had been thinking about going to The Restoring Honor Rally for a few weeks. My job involves a significant amount of driving, so I tend to hear a good deal of talk radio. Beck and Lou Dobbs are my favorites. All the Tea Party hype is something I have found very exciting. I find the Republican Party old, untrustworthy, jaded, and bereft of appealing leadership. The notion to really get out there and be involved has swirled in my head for some time now. Eventually this was it. Beck sold me: I’ll admit it. (I do look forward to an opportunity to hear Lou Dobbs too).
So on Friday night I ditched my buddies that I usually carouse with through the NYC bars, told my lady that I would catch up with her after her vacation, and hopped into my car to roll south to our nation’s capital.
Saturday morning was cloudy initially and a comfortable 78 degrees. I decided to walk. Coming along New Jersey Ave SE up toward the south side of the Capitol and then on down the mall. The sky was a beautiful blue by the time I made it to the mall. Along the way it was very quiet — a quiet part of town, I suppose. I headed west and then made my way to the mall from 3rd. The stream of people moving west along the grass was evident from two blocks away. I basically kept to myself, somewhat guarded and not feeling any type of strong excitement. I really just didn’t know what to expect; plus rolling solo tends have a shying effect.
The people I walked amongst were very normal folks. I don’t think I fully identify with them; there wasn’t a strong feeling of kindred spirit for me. Yet it was clear that the people were just good and honest Americans concerned about their country. Many people wore Restoring Honor t-shirts, or Tea Party shirts but the vibe was surely not aggressive or violent in any way.
The crowd continued to thicken as I neared the Washington Monument. Every 50 yards was another person handing out fliers. There were marshals in orange guiding the crowd, but everyone flooded the lawns throughout the mall. As I headed down the easy slope away from the south side of the obelisk I heard a marshal say something along the lines of “It’s packed up ahead, see the people set-up under that tree with the long distance view from the small hill, they set-up for the shade and they know there is not much room ahead.” I pushed on. My first picture is as I came down on the flat area just east of 17th Street. This is when I began to realize the crowd was going to be massive.
I settled in about midway down on the south side of the reflecting pool comfortably set up in the shade. I had no view of the Lincoln Memorial through the trees, but I had found a place with a nice view of one of the mega screens set up beyond the trees to my left. There I stood for a good 2 hours. The first hour of the rally focused on honoring our soldiers. Glenn Beck opened the theme up by referring to pools that show the military is the most trusted branch of our govt, and holds a solid lead by 15 points. Sarah Palin’s speech recounted three fantastic stories of heroism performed by men in uniform. This was inspirational, and I was proud to honor these men.
Glenn Beck was emcee throughout. As the rally continued I was impressed by the diversity of the speakers. The highlight for me was Tony LaRussa, who introduced Albert Pujols. I thought it was brilliant by Beck to get one of the best baseball players of our generation to participate. The crowd was supportive and cheering loudly with a good energy. It was such a vast crowd that sometimes you could hear cheers from far off and slowly the sound of cheering would move around the mall and eventually engulf the entirety. It was not the rowdy type cheering you would hear at a sports event, or the excited energetic cheering you would hear at a concert, but a more focused, stoic and reverend type.
Initially I thought the crowd would be elderly, but I was happily surprised by the wide range in ages. It was truly a family affair and often I thought I spotted three generations in family groups. The crowd was very well behaved; at one point right next to where I stood a woman fainted. Doctors were quickly summoned from the crowd; an EMT emerged to help, and the crowd took care of her for a solid 30 minutes until she could be extracted and moved out to one of the cooling tents.
As Alveta King and her group of gospel singers got going I decided to leave the comforts of mt post and stroll the grounds. I headed south under the trees and out onto the lawn. The south side lawn was nicely crowded, but there was plenty of room to move through the picnic blankets, and groups of folding chairs. I got out where all the buses had been arriving and there seemed to be the caravan parking for the presenters speakers.
There was no media in sight. Indeed, I saw no main media outlets set-up on that entire side. Not one van. Maybe they had all set-up shop elsewhere but the lack of mainstream media was clear — not really surprising, but evident. On numerous occasions helicopters flew over the grounds. It was as if the media is so confused by the sentiment of this particular sector of America they want to keep it at a distance, almost like they are afraid to mingle in this crowd.
One stroke of genius by Beck and his team was ask the crowd not to bring signs. I think this disarmed not only the media and critics, but had a psychological effect on the event as a whole: it disarmingly focused the rally as non-political. Maybe that is why the media was not around. Nothing to show that would push their agenda; no fireworks.
Glenn Beck’s closing speech was very good. He followed his themes of Faith, Hope, and Charity and the return to God. And his continued humility about American scars and the humanness of the country’s history was another strong tool to keep focused on moving forward with the great American Experiment. Although his analysis of the Thomas Jefferson’s final line in the Declaration of Independence (“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor,”) was strong, it also fell somewhat flat. I thought the emphasis on the idea of divine providence was powerful and convincing, but I would have liked to see him think beyond tithes when discussing pledging fortunes. But there is no doubt of the power of the declaration by these our forefathers, pledging their lives and sacred honors. This line is powerful and Beck has the speaking skill to give it life.
All in all the experience was encouraging. To know that so many people still hold to the idea that America is the best man has yet to offer this world gives me hope.
I feel it is important to mention how the theme of MLK and the “I Have a Dream” speech were drawn on by all speakers and throughout the rally. I love the way MLK was brought in as kindred to the US founders. I felt he was honored as the most “modern” of American Founding Fathers. Naturally, then, “Content of Character” was a common phrase, and it fit so well with the entire spirit that it created a great feeling among everyone.
The main thing I took away is that the characterization of the people who support Beck and the Tea Party movement is profoundly skewed. Pop culture superficiality has twisted it. This confirms my disappointment with the media. It reinforces the skepticism I have for main stream sources. But if rallies like this continue, I am confident things will change and our country will move in the right direction.
To close the show they had bag pipers play Amazing Grace while the gospel choir sang. The entire mall joined in and it was hard to find a dry. It was a fantastic way to conclude.