WASHINGTON (CN) – Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall on Saturday for a “Restoring Honor” rally hosted by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Beck claimed that the rally was not political. “It has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with God,” he said. The event raised funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who addressed the crowd 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 while he was initially planning to hold a political rally, he prayed and got a message from God that 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,” he said. “I choose advance.”
Beck called the rally a “defibrillator to the heart of America,” and pushed for individual responsibility. “We must not explore just outer space,” he said, “but we must, as Americans, explore inner space.”
Beck read the Gettysburg Address, comparing 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 out cries of ‘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 from when construction halted during the Civil War, saying 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.”
The day’s speeches were broken up by videos, narrated by Beck, that featured pictures of 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,” King said, “that America will repent of the sin of racism and return to honor. 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.”
She also said she had a dream that prayer would return to the public spaces in the country. “Faith and hope are not dead in America,” King said.
Beck said Dr. King “awoke our nation’s conscience” with his historic . “Today, we stand on the same hallowed ground with our heads held high and our hearts open,” Beck said, to cheers.
Ralliers spilled across the sunny grounds between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, many having traveled by bus from states along the eastern seaboard to attend the event.
“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.”
While the crowd was mostly calm, there was evidence of divisive views. A table collecting funds in an “Impeach Oboma” [sic] jar provoked varied reactions from passersby. “Let’s do it!” a woman called out. A man told the table 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.”