"Forty years ago, on these very steps, Martin Luther King had a dream. The dream seems a simple one," said Gonzalez. "On that day, 200,000 people — black and white, young and old — gathered across the National Mall to hear King's word. Many had lost faith...[King] knew that this was the day to inspire change."
There were performances by country singer Jo Dee Messina and prayers from Jewish Rabbis; gospel performances by black Christian groups and testimonials from military mothers who praised their sons' commitment to serving our country. Unlike many traditional tea party rallies, participants didn't jump to their feet constantly or gush about politics at the slightest opportunity. There was a palpable calm over most of the crowd for the majority of the event, which was fitting with the many the many groups who offered prayers and preaching.
"People need to — like the old Testament tells us — we need to get on our knees and be humble before God, and take care of the world... so that we can be restored," said Jodie Anderson, from Indiana. "This event is unbelievable."
A plethora of media commentators denounced the message as hokey; none of the 500,000+ attendees seemed to doubt it one bit.
"I'm here honoring my country, and the great things we do in this world in the time of uncertainty," said Jebin Collins, from Virginia. "Seeing this many people come in from all over the country, come together peacefully, honoring God, and their country — it's beyond belief."
Beck's event was the first rally Collins had attended, and he was sporting a United States Marine Corps t-shirt, as were many other people in the crowd. Children relaxed on blankets in the parks adjacent to the Reflecting Pool, though the crowd was decidedly middle-aged. There were virtually no-counter protesters visible from the main stage near the Lincoln memorial, despite well-publicized plans for counter-protests.
Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King' niece, spoke to the crowd in a tone that echoed her uncle. She repeated "I have a dream," again and again, and continued with her desire to end racism, poverty, white privilege, and her desire to continue the foundation of holy matrimony.
"How many of us know that we need to rebuild America?" she asked the crowd. "We need unity to do that."
After a series of presentations, Glenn Beck himself took to the stage for about an hour at the end of the program, delivering further remarks on the founding fathers and military respect.
"Unless we challenge ourselves to be better than what we currently are, we will not grow the next great monument," said Beck, pointing to the monuments around him on the National Mall. "America, now is our moment. Yesterday is gone. This is our challenge. This is our goal. This is the American destiny. With charity towards those who struggle, faith in a God who guides us, and truth in who we really are, we pledge today to restore honor and the promise of America."