Change has become a force to be reckoned with in the political arena over the past two years. But a different kind of change shook the Washington D.C. National Mall on Saturday, Aug. 28.
Upset over the divisive health care reform and legislative bills like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the controversial shock jock Glenn Beck was joined by hundreds of thousands at his “Restoring America” rally.
People from all across the nation converged between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Notable speakers including Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King, and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin fired up the crowd.
“It is so humbling to get to be here with you today,” Palin said to the crowd. “We must restore America and restore her honor.”
In the past, Glenn Beck has made contentious remarks, calling President Obama a “racist” and has stated “social justice is a perversion of the Bible” on his popular TV show.
Yet the message was very different on Saturday in front of the masses. No one was singled out by Beck and instead three themes of faith, hope and charity were emphasized. He also drew several references from the Bible, calling the pilgrims and Native Americans “the chosen people.”
“This really is ‘build it and they will come,’” Beck said to the crowd as he assessed their numbers.
Many rally participants, like Laura Mcleod from Slapout, Ala., came to not only voice their concerns but to celebrate the U.S.
“I’m here to join with like-minded people and just to celebrate our freedom. I’m not here just to see him [Beck]. I’m here to see every speaker there is,” Mcleod said. “They said there are going to be other leaders here and different denominations. I want to hear what everyone has to say.”
Mcleod owns a small smokehouse restaurant and expressed her concern with the current recession.
“With all the unemployment being extended and while I believe people always need a hand, I’m paying 20 cents out of every dollar of my pocket and not their pocket,” Laura Mcleod from Alabama said. “There’s not much money left after that and that’s just one tax.”
“I’m an American like everyone else. I want my freedom like everyone else. All of our freedom is at stake at this time,” Mcleod said.
Jim Armano, a retired schoolteacher from New York City, N.Y., joined the rally to voice his opposition to Obama’s political ideology.
“I’m against this administration’s agenda. I believe in small, limited government adhering to the constitution. I think Obamacare is a disaster and will just tax everyone into the poorhouse,” Armano said. “I’m here nervous about the debt for my children and grandchildren. I think it’s unsustainable.”
Having worked for the public education system, Armano said pensions and salaries should be slashed in order to balance the states’ budget.
“They should be cut and they [the government] should live within their means as necessary. I’m willing to take a cut on my pension as long as it’s equally spread,” Armano said.
Despite his frustrations with the current administration, Armano believes there still is hope for the future.
“I think people will come together to do the right thing but there’s too many favoritisms and lobbyists with too much influence in Washington,” Armano said. “It’s upsetting. We don’t want the government taking care of us. We want to take care of ourselves, just as long as the government provides an equal playing field for all people.”
Spread amidst the rally were multiple opponents of Glenn Beck who raised concern over the timing of the event including sophomore international affairs major Sarah Hasenfuss from George Washington University.
“It’s Martin Luther King Day and apparently this is just a coincidence? I don’t think so,” Hasenfuss said. She also was skeptical of his motives.
“I’m against his social agenda. He’s been really backwards on feminism, homosexual rights and African-American rights. He says he’s restoring the honor of America and I really don’t think he’s doing that. I’m more against the lies that he’s spreading to people. He calls people that are really capitalists socialists, which really gets on my nerves.”
Later on in the day another rally was held by the Rev. Al Sharpton countering Beck’s message, providing a livid display of American freedom of speech at the nation’s Capital.