Sunday, August 29, 2010

8/28 Restoring Honor Rally

Fox News TV host and talk radio show host Glenn Beck was the primary organizer of a rally in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 2010 called "Restoring Honor". At first, I wasn't really inclined to go because I thought it would be just another political rally, which did not interest me in the least. As the event got closer, I listened to Glenn talk about the rally on his radio program. The more I heard, the more interested I became.

Perhaps the biggest draw for me was Beck's repeated insistence that this would not be a political rally. As proof of that, he begged rally attendees to leave their political signs at home, and asked that they only bring themselves, their friends, and their families. Second, Beck said the purpose of the rally was twofold: to call Americans to restore honor to their lives and to honor the troops. Beck's definition of restoring honor included asking attendees to get all the lies out of their lives, to decide what they believe in and where their faith lies, and to live accordingly. He also admonished attendees to prioritize their lives around things that really matter, especially family as a whole and teaching values to their children. In terms of honoring the troops, the rally served as a fundraiser for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that raises money to provide college scholarships for the children of Special Ops soldiers killed in action.

Based on the stated purposes of the rally, my own sense that this was an event that would be attended by huge numbers of Americans, and my desire for a sort of restoration of faith and hope for my mind and soul that America will make it and is not doomed, I decided to attend the rally. I went to Beck's website and located a group leaving from Nashville to go to the rally after work on the Friday night before the rally the next Saturday. Most of the major hotels were booked solid, and the lowest priced hotel I found was more than $ 300 for a single night, and that was before spending a penny to get to and from D.C. The group on the website, on the other hand, planned to drive overnight (meaning that no hotel room was needed), attend the rally the next day, and drive back to Nashville after the rally (with a plan to get back in town by 3:00 A.M. or so Sunday morning). I initially thought the group would be making the trip in a big bus or at least in a mid-sized tour bus, but due to logistical issues, it turned out to be a group of 7 of us going to D.C. and back in a Dodge Grand Caravan. The tour organizer was a nice husband and wife team who owned a local taxi business, and they did all the driving, so it could have been worse.

We actually left Knoxville a few minutes before 5:30 on Friday night, and we made fairly good time the whole trip up. We stopped in Greeneville, TN and ate a late dinner at a truck stop, which wasn't the best idea and gave me stomach problems later, but hey, that's travel food. We hoped to get into D.C. before 6:00 A.M. to beat incoming traffic and to get a good place in line for the D.C. Metro Rail, which would take us to less than a mile from the rally site (the steps of the Lincoln Memorial), where we would walk the rest of the way. We got into D.C. just after 4:30 A.M. and ate an early breakfast at McDonald's, then made our way to the Metro Rail station. We decided to park at the station on the side of D.C. closest to Virginia and a little farther away from the rally site so we wouldn't have to fight D.C. traffic through the city to get going back home. That turned out to be a smart decision. We slept in the van until about 6:15 A.M., then we got in line for the Metro Rail. It was a good thing we got a good spot in line, and that the station we chose was the first on the route (which contained approximately a dozen stops total) to the rally site because the metro rail ride alone took over an hour from our stop to the rally site. Beyond that, looking at the inbound traffic, all the interstates and highways were essentially a parking lot, and I had no idea whether those folks stuck in traffic would make it to the rally on time (it was from 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.). We thought we were packed in pretty tight at the stop where we boarded, but as we made stop after stop on the way to the rally site, people kept packing in more and more tightly (just like sardines) until no one could move and no more people could fit on the train. I'm fairly certain that was a safety hazard that would have killed us all in the event of a fire or crash, but thankfully, that didn't happen.

We got off the train at about 8:30, and it took about 30 minutes to walk to the rally site. D.C. is a beautiful city if you look at the scenery and don't think about the fact that the folks who work there (allegedly on our behalf) are spending us into bankruptcy. The closer we got to the rally site, the more dense the crowd became. I took some pictures of the massive Washington Monument on my phone. It really is awe-inspiring when you consider that it was built 200 years ago before almost all of modern construction technology as we know it. Next up was the World War II Memorial, which has each state in the union represented with a state-specific stone to honor the contributions of the soldiers from that state to the war effort. After that memorial came the Reflecting Pool, which led up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The water of the reflecting pool was dirty, but it was still a beautiful sight to behold. The stage for the rally was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but we couldn't get close enough to see it with the naked eye because of the density of the crowd. Fortunately, there were Jumbo-trons every so often starting at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial back past the end of the Washington Monument. The sound system turned out to project fairly well, but it was somewhat hard to make out what the speakers said when they spoke more loudly.

After some tough navigation of the crowd, we were able to find a spot for the 7 of us about halfway between the steps of the two memorials and right next to the Reflecting Pool. Earlier in the morning, the sun was bright, but it was breezy and comfortable. However, much like the subway, the rally itself was packed in tight with attendees, which multiplied body heat exponentially. The rally began with Glenn Beck speaking. He thanked the crowd for coming and told us briefly about how the rally came together. He said the timing of the rally (on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech) was originally coincidence, but he came to believe it was divine providence because the substance of this rally had so much in common with Dr. King's legacy of peace, faith, and non-violence. He said he would be presenting awards to several people who stood out for their charity and service to others (among other things).

The next part of the program was conducted by Sarah Palin. Although the media used her presence to try to claim this was a political event, Palin (despite her annoying accent) was just the opposite of political on this day. She first spoke about the experience of being the mother of a soldier, then she introduced several soldiers to the crowd. She told the heroic story of each soldier, including Retired Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell of Operation Redwing fame, and the crowd gave each soldier a rousing round of applause. Next, the mother of a fallen Special Operations soldier came out and spoke to the crowd about the love and support she received from the Special Operations Warrior Foundation after the death of her son. Once she told her story, Glenn Beck joined her on the stage to plead for donations to the SOWF. Beck asked everyone there to get out their cell phones and to text a $ 10 donation to the SOWF. It seemed like 9 of every 10 people at the rally did just that. Later that weekend, I learned that the rally raised over $ 5.5 million dollars for the SOWF. At $ 10 per donation, that puts the number of attendees at least in the hundreds of thousands.

The next and final part of the program was the presentation of awards to the honorees of the rally. The first award went to a black pastor with several decades' experience in the ministry. He spoke of a legacy of peace and service, and thanked Glenn Beck for his faith, for organizing the rally, and for the award. The next award went to St. Louis Cardinals' (MLB) slugger Albert Pujols. The award had nothing to do with Pujols' baseball exploits and everything to do with his faithfulness and love for his family, and for his tireless community service to the St. Louis community. Pujols spoke of his humble beginnings in the Dominican Republic, his great appreciation for all the success God gave him, and the importance of using his blessings to bless others. The last speaker I saw, and in my mind, the highlight of the rally, was Dr. Aveda Kin niece of Dr. Martin Luther King. She was under tremendous pressure from the professional race-baiters (think New Black Panther Party, NAACP, etc.) not to attend the rally, but she did anyway. She too thanked Glenn for organizing the rally, and said that her uncle would have been proud of the rally because it stood for people coming together based on content of character rather than skin color. After she was done speaking, the tour organizer's wife was getting sunburned and she was sweating profusely. She decided to go back to the van with half an hour to go in the rally, and because I was suffering pretty badly from the heat myself, I decided to go with them. We made good time getting back to the van (arriving about 2:30 P.M.), and we took a nap while we waited for the rest of the group to get back to the van (they made it back about 4:00 P.M.). The entire group left D.C. about 5:00 P.M., ate dinner at a Chili's in Virginia about 8:00 P.M., and got back to Nashville about 3:30 A.M.

Here is what I took away from the rally and the trip: 1.) Driving 16 hours one way by car (32 total hours of driving in 48 hours) sucks. That's a game for someone much younger (late teens or early 20s) because I haven't been that sore in quite a while.; 2.) I will definitely be bringing sunblock and an umbrella (at a minimum) to any future rallies I attend. I also might be willing to sit a little further back if I can get some shade from the sun.; 3.) This rally stood in sharp contrast to the pathetic Al Sharpton event just down the street. The racist reverend's rally might have had a few hundred attendees at best, and I am fairly certain the idiots who took the stage after the Glenn Beck rally was over wearing Tea Party shirts and trying to insult Democrats to get on camera and make the Tea Party look bad probably came from his event.; 4.) The crowd estimate for the Beck rally from CBS was 87,000. That's absolutely laughable. The area from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial past the Reflecting Pool back to the Washington Monument holds 200,000 people, and it was packed full. Each of the side areas on either side of the Reflecting Pool holds between 100,000 and 150,000 each, and both of those areas were packed full. When you add in the various smatterings of people back past the Washington Monument, I think Glenn's estimate of between 500,000 and 650,000 attendees is much closer to the truth. His claim is bolstered by my math above regarding the donations to the SOWF. If 9 of 10 attendees each gave $ 10, then approximately 550,000 people attended this rally.; 5.) This was the most well-behaved, civl crowd of this size I have ever seen. Looking beyond all the families with small children at the rally, there was not a single arrest of anyone attending this rally, and the grounds of the rally site were just as clean (or cleaner) than when we got there. All the trash was in designated containers or trash areas, while the grounds themselves were immaculate. Look at any leftist/progressive rally a fraction of that size, and similar claims can not be made.; 6.) I got what I came for at this rally. Before I attended the rally, I felt an ongoing sense of despair at the direction of the country, and even worse yet, I felt alone. That is not the case any longer. Now I know that there are huge numbers of other like-minded people out there who want nothing more than to live and raise their families in peace and freedom without being terrorized and having their wealth and freedom stolen by their own government. It gives me hope to press forward and keep fighting for the America I have come to know and love, and faith that God has truly blessed America and that we hold a special place in his heart. For those reasons, I consider it a blessing to have been able to attend this rally, and I am glad I went.

In closing, I should also say a special thank you to my wife, who agreed to hold down the fort at home and gave me her blessing to go the rally even though my plan to attend materialized on short notice. I don't ask for many things, so when I say that something is important to me, my wife is pretty good about trying to make it happen for me. That's not something every married man has at home, but I do, and I am thankful for it.