WASHINGTON, D.C. — Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend was politically uneventful. But it instilled in me a desire to focus on values that can make this nation great. We came to honor military and civilian heroes, the Founding Fathers and — at the center of it all — God.
On Friday night, my fiancé and I headed to Washington, D.C. to attend the rally at the Lincoln Memorial. We had no idea what to expect. We knew that it was not a Tea Party event or even a political rally, but we did recognize it was expected to draw many conservatives and independents from around the country.
Driving in on the interstate Friday night from Fort Wayne, Ind., we saw licenses from New Mexico, Minnesota, Florida, South Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Texas. Many vehicles had “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper stickers, “Restoring Honor: 8/28” and many American flags. When we arrived at our hotel in Arlington, Va., our concierge told us that all the hotel rooms in the city were booked solid.
We headed to the rally early Saturday morning at 8 a.m. The subway was filled with people from all walks of life — the young, old and families. Many donned American-flag shirts, Restoring Honor shirts and carried American flags. At 8:30 a.m., the crowds were already thick, reaching as far back as the World War II Memorial. We worked our way to halfway up the reflecting pool and wedged ourselves between families who had been sitting in those spots for a few hours.
People chatted and talked about how far they had come for the event, as they munched on granola bars, muffins and drank waters from coolers that they had brought with them. At 10 a.m., the crowd extended from the Lincoln Memorial to both sides of the Mall on either side of the reflecting pool, beyond the World War II Memorial and onto the hill of the Washington Monument. Even the areas of the Mall beyond the trees were filled with people, on the sidewalks and adjacent grassy hills.
The rally itself was a cross between a motivational seminar and a rousing church service. It began patriotically with a Boy Scout reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a choir singing the national anthem. Glenn Beck used the theme of “Faith, Hope, and Charity” throughout the event, and he spent the first part of the event honoring wounded soldiers. His use of Sarah Palin may have drawn in crowds of supporters, but she was there mainly as the mother of a soldier and to give credit to three soldiers: US Navy Seal Petty Officer Marcus Lutrell, US Marine James Eddie Wright and Air Force Colonel Tom Kirk, who had bravely fought for our country and showed honorable service and great sacrifice.
The next part of the event honored civilians whom he felt exemplified the characteristics of “faith, hope and charity.” The recipients were Rev. C.L. Jackson for faith, baseball’s Albert Pujols for hope, and Jon Huntsman Sr. for charity. Alveda King, a niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, gave a very inspirational speech in which she talked about King’s wishes for America, re-emphasizing her uncle’s plea for unity and a return to God.
Beck ended the rally with a speech in which he challenged the audience to reflect on them, and do the right thing, just as others who had died before had done. The location of the rally added to the inspiration: from the Washington to the Lincoln memorials, Vietnam, Korean and World War II vets enveloped the crowd. And in the center of it all, the reflecting pool reminded us to look inside ourselves. Beck challenged the crowd to implement the characteristics of faith, hope and charity to our own lives. The rally was filled with reminders that God cannot be left out of it all. From the inscriptions on the architecture surrounding the event to the opening and closing prayers to the rousing musical rendition of “Amazing Grace,” many in the crowd had hands raised to the sky as they would in an evangelical service. Beck brought in leaders of many faiths to stand arm in arm along the stage, not in agreement of fundamentals, but as fellow human beings who all believe that God is central to their purpose.
In the end, the crowd left peacefully among sounds of Christian gospel music. As we left, I felt the event honored military heroes, honored civilians who espouse cherished principals and values, honored our Founding Fathers and Martin Luther King for their contributions to the America we love and honored God at the center.
Politically, it was uneventful. But perhaps the reflecting-pool analogy challenges us to look inside ourselves for our own values. It admonished us to elect leaders who reflect those values and those of the Founding Fathers and soldiers who gave their lives for this country so that we could continue to live in the America that we know and love.