WASHINGTON (CN) – Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall Saturday for a rally called “Restoring Honor,” hosted by Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck. Held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall, Beck claimed the gathering “has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with God.”
The event raised money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who spoke after Beck, said she was there as a mother, not a politician.
“Say what you want about me,” Palin said, “but I’ve raised a combat vet and you can’t take that away.”
Beck said that while he initially planned to hold a political rally, he prayed and got a message from God, Who said, “You have all the pieces, just put them together. The pieces are faith, hope and charity.”
“He is the creator, who guides our life and protects us,” Beck said. “I testify to you now that one man can change the world. Look to yourself,” he said. “America is at a crossroads. We must decide who we are. We must decide what we believe. We must advance or perish. I choose advance.”
Beck called the rally a “defibillator to the heart of America,” and demanded individual responsibility. “We must not explore just outer space,” he said, “but we must, as Americans, explore inner space.”
Beck read the Gettysburg Address, and compared the crowd to warriors.
“This is a great battlefield filled with warriors on each side,” he said. “We’re here for an experiment, the experiment that man can rule himself. That’s the American experiment. Do we say the experiment is up? Someone must rule us?”
The audience shouted ‘No!”
“It shall not end here,” Beck said. “It shall not end now.”
Beck pointed out the “scars” on the Washington monument, the change in color because construction halted during the Civil War, and said no one ever talked about its scars, but America had terrible scars, too. “We have a choice today to let those scars crush us or redeem us,” he said.
The day’s speeches were interspersed with videos, narrated by Beck, that featured pictures of Dr. King, bald eagles and sunsets and words such as liberty, justice, freedom and hope.
Dr. Alveda King, King’s niece, gave an address echoing her uncle’s famous words.
“I have a dream that America will repent of the sin of racism and return to honor,” she said. “I have a dream that white privilege will become human privilege, and that people of every ethnic clan will receive everyone as brothers and sisters in the love of God.”
King said she dreamed that prayer would return to the public spaces in the country. “Faith and hope are not dead in America,” King said.
Beck said Martin Luther King “awoke our nation’s conscience” with his speech on Aug. 28, 1963. “Today, we stand on the same hallowed ground with our heads held high and our hearts open,” Beck said.
People spilled across the sunny grounds between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, many having traveled by bus from states along the Eastern Seaboard.
“The honor and integrity of our country is going downhill and we want our voices to be heard,” said Michele Kasun of Pittsburgh.
Shirley and Dan Dennis, of South Florida, carried paper masks picturing Beck with his tongue sticking out.
“He’s a good guy, he’s just misunderstood,” Dan Dennis said.
When asked what brought them out for the rally, Shirley Dennis said, “Honor. We’re standing for honor. We must redeem our country from the way it’s going right now.”
The crowd was mostly calm, though one table set up to collect money in an “Impeach Oboma” (sic) jar, provoked varied reactions.
“Let’s do it!” a woman called out.
A man told the attendants, “You guys do not represent what we are here for. You’re wrong doing this.”
Tim Myler of Pittsburgh walked to the Mall carrying a small cross with a Jesus Christ figurine. He said he was attending the rally to “restore honor in our country.”
When asked what that would look like, he said, “It would look like the Founding Fathers envisioned, where men are men and women are women and we begin to look and act like gentlemen and ladies,” he said. “Myself, I’m a radical.”