August 28, 2010 will mark the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which was a defining moment in America’s civil rights movement. Every year, this anniversary is observed with speeches, marches, and other events to support the movement and honor Dr. King’s legacy. This year, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, a new event is coming to town that is already stirring major controversy. Glenn Beck, the Fox News and talk radio host who has become a polarizing figure in the media, is hosting a rally entitled “Restoring Honor.” According to the event’s website, the rally is intended to “pay tribute to America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.”
However, backlash against the event has been immediate, with detractors criticizing everything from the ideology and possible hidden agendas behind the event to the date and location chosen.
The website for the event repeatedly claims that the rally is not political in nature and is not affiliated with the Tea Party or with the GOP, but his own presence, as well as that of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, have led to speculation that this rally will actually be a means for gauging the level of support for the Tea Party movement.
Some people are questioning Glenn Beck’s motivations in giving a speech on what is a largely race-related issue. Beck has made a number of controversial claims involving racial relations in America, particularly where President Barack Obama is concerned. “[Obama is] a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture… I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem,” Beck has said. “This guy is, I believe, a racist.” He has also recently claimed that the civil rights movement is an “abomination” that “has been so distorted and so turned upside down.”
Martin Luther King Jr.’s son, Martin Luther King III, recently published an opinion piece in the Washington Post in which he commended the rally’s stated intent of honoring America’s service personnel and emphasized his belief in free speech and the right of Glenn Beck and his supporters to hold the rally. However, he also implied that the rally might twist his father’s legacy. “His dream rejected hateful rhetoric and all forms of bigotry or discrimination, whether directed at race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation or political beliefs.”
The event may cause conflict with other events scheduled that day, including a speech and march led by Rev. Al Sharpton. In a recent edition of his show, Beck said that he did not deliberately choose that date, but the coincidence is “divine providence.”
Rev. Sharpton himself has criticized the ideologies behind the “Restoring Honor” rally. “Glenn Beck and others are expected to push for the expansion of states’ rights – the exact antithesis of the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s legacy,” Sharpton stated in a press release. “The Tea Party and allied conservatives are trying to break that national stance on justice and, in turn, break the crux of what the civil rights movement symbolized and what Dr. King fought and literally died for.”
Philip Elliot, “Glenn Beck: My DC rally will ‘reclaim the civil rights movement,'” The Raw Story
Amy Gardner, “Glenn Beck rally will be a measure of the tea party’s strength,” The Washington Post
Glenn Beck, “Restoring Honor – 8.28.10,” glennbeck.com