WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - On Saturday, August 28, 2010, a crystal clear, sunny day in Washington D.C. a massive crowd of people gathered for a "Restoring Honor" Rally. The Rally was called by Glenn Beck, the popular radio and television personality who has captured the heart of many Americans and raised the ire of some in the main stream media.
The sheer numbers demonstrated that the rally had support well beyond the persistent efforts by some in the media to marginalize it as a "tea party" event. Of course, in their condescension these same people used that term in a disparaging manner. The crowd easily exceeded 500,000 people. The event stage was set up at the base of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. However, the massive crowd stretched along the Lincoln Memorial, on both sides of the reflective pond stretching all the way to the Washington Monument.
An opening song, reflecting on the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11, was written for the event and beautifully performed by a woman named Angelica Tucker. It set the theme: "We must rebuild our lives, our strength, and our hearts. not just the buildings we lost." It was followed by an eloquent prayer by Evangelical Bishop Harry Jackson of Washington's Hope Christian Church who is emerging as one of many men of courage, honor and character unafraid to speak and live the truth in our day.
The address given by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, secured this heroic and inspiring woman's place in American history. This is the 47th anniversary of her uncle, the late, great Christian minister and human rights hero, Dr Martin Luther Kings' famous "I Have a Dream" Speech. He would have been proud of his niece. She is an heir of his legacy and certainly has his extraordinary gift for prophetic rhetoric which can rouse the heart of a Nation.
This was a masterful and inspired speech, given on the day when the Nation honors one of our greatest Americans. Dr Alveda King candidly and honestly declared that "our material gains seem to be going the way of our moral losses" but then insisted "We are Not without Hope!". She referenced the iconic words of her uncle, adding "I Still Have a Dream". She roused the crowd and called the Nation to unity through the restoration of the guiding principles which inspired her uncle's heroic life and death and informed the American experiment.
The pundits who condescendingly sought to marginalize the event for weeks before it happened - going so far as to attempt to paint it with allegations of racism - should have been ashamed. The stage was filled with men and women of color, who, with the raucous support of the hundreds of thousands gathered, affirmed our solidarity as Americans. Dr. Alveda King reminded the crowd that we are " united by blood as one race, the human race."
The address given by Glenn Beck followed, calling the Nation to 'Wake Up'. He told the hundreds of thousands gathered in the Nation's Capitol that it was time to "Start the Heart of America again." Framing his address with copious references to the founders and founding documents he used the backdrop of the Lincoln memorial and the Washington Memorial to accentuate his message. He honored the heroism of the founders and the genius of the American experiment. However, he also acknowledged the limitations and the scars of those who helped found the American experiment. This was the most significant part of Beck's address. He repeatedly explained to the crowd that scars and mistakes are invitations to learn, change, grow and improve - insisting that this is true for people and for Nations. He is correct.
He invited the crowd to continue the "unfinished work" which Abraham Lincoln referred to in his Gettysburg Address, telling those gathered to make a choice for the future. He proclaimed it is "...what we do from here that matters. This is the point of choice!" His final historical reference was to John Newton; the Captain of a Slave ship in the 1700's who in the midst of a threatening storm at sea turned to God and was dramatically converted. He reformed his life and wrote the Hymn Amazing Grace, which Beck called the best song ever written for bagpipes. At that moment, bagpipers emerged and the melody of that song began.
As the platform filled with 240 religious leaders from every religious tradition, the crowd began to sing the hymn, led by an unidentified but gifted man whose beautiful voice enhanced the emotion laden moment. With a prayer led by a heroic man who overcame great obstacles in his own life, the whole point of the day was again underscored and the official part of the Rally to Restore Honor came to a conclusion.
Clearly, Glenn Beck's dreams for a Rally which could "restart the heart of America" exceeded all expectations. Even the Press, which for days leading up to the event had minimized, mocked and trivialized the event, immediately began to acknowledge its massive size and possible significance. Then, they quickly regrouped and the punditry began all over again. I imagine the implications of the event will be fodder for much pontificating for weeks. However, any honest reporter must admit that this was clearly an historic event.
The people who gathered in the Capitol on August 28, 2010, from all over the Nation and representing a wide cross section of the people of the United States of America, left filled with hope, encouraged and challenged to serve and participate.That can only be good for what ails this Nation.