Commentary submission by Project 21
On August 28, I arrived in Washington, D.C. with a contingent of the Greenwich Tea Party Patriots of South Jersey to attend Glenn Beck’s “Restore Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial. We consisted of three packed busloads.
The weather was perfect that day, and I estimate there were between 200,000 and 300,000 people at the rally. Richard Hoch, a radio and television personality from my hometown Millville, New Jersey who came along with us, said he thought that number was actually higher.
Whatever the number, there were Americans of all races and ages there. Real diversity.
As the rally began, the joyous mood of the crowd escalated. Glenn Beck’s guest speakers were chosen not for politics, but because of their patriotism and desire to make a difference. Critics said Beck was being politically correct because of the diversity of his guests, but “PC” had nothing to do with it. His choices for speakers were people who believed in America, and their messages were perfect for the theme of the rally.
Everyone gave inspiring speeches on the importance of restoring honor to our nation. Yet there were four notable moments when thunderous applause rippled through the crowd like a tidal wave:
• Beck’s initial appearance on the stage.
• When Sarah Palin was introduced.
• When Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was
• When a clip of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was played.
I was a young man in my 20s when Dr. King was at the height of his struggle. I know many of his speeches well, including his most-famous “I Have a Dream” speech given 47 years ago to the day and in the same place as the Beck event. I was honored enough to be able to hear that speech in person while on leave from the U.S. Air Force.
I believe that, if he were alive today, Dr. King would have been pleased at the Americans of all races who came to the recent Beck rally. Despite the comments of Beck’s detractors, I think Dr. King would have joined hands with Beck —along with his niece, Alveda — to proclaim, “Let freedom ring!”
I also think Dr. King would have told those who have, since his death, distorted and twisted his message that they should stop the divisive rhetoric and bitterness and join with the patriots of this great nation to help restore its honor.
Some of Beck’s critics say that Dr. King would not have liked a constitutionally-limited government. They claim Dr. King wanted big government to protect the rights of blacks and the poor. Instead, I believe he wanted the government to ensure the constitutional rights of all people without discrimination or prejudice. But I don’t think he wanted that same government to re-enslave minorities and the poor (as well as the rest of America) through oppressive taxation and the suppression of self-dignity with over-reaching regulations and nanny-state policies.
At no time, but the way, did I personally witness or hear of any contention, strife, confrontation or negative incidents before, during or after the rally. Quite to the contrary, it was a very civil affair.
As we left the rally, my contingent of New Jersey tea partieres left feeling uplifted and filled with hope. We can now answer Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who once warned, “We have given you a Republic, if you can keep it,” by saying with deep determination, “Ben, we are resolved to keep it.”
Jimmie L. Hollis is a member of the National Advisory Council of the Project 21 black leadership network.