A plea for unity
Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Sandy Dellicker of Summit Hill doesn't let an ankle injury stop her from attending the "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C. on Saturday. She is pushed in a wheelchair to the event after leaving bus in the parking lot of RFK Stadium. Over 100 residents traveled by bus from Lehighton to the rally.
Glenn Beck, the controversial, conservative TV show host, did on Saturday what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did 47 years ago.
He brought together hundreds of thousands of people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. for a rally and pleaded for unity of all Americans.
Two buses with more than 100 local residents traveled to the event, labeled "Restoring Honor," from Lehighton. At least 10 busloads of people attended from the Lehigh Valley. There were several buses filled with people from the Hazleton area.
Although the National Park Service doesn't give estimates on crowds, organizers said there were about a half million people present. NBC news said it was about 300,000 people in attendance.
One Washington newspaper said the crowd was so large it clogged the Metro transportation system, something which rarely happens.
"Today we are going to concentrate on the good things of America," pledged Beck at the start of the rally. He kept his promise. At times the event resembled a church service, complete with sermon-type speeches and prayer. There also was a lot of emphasis placed on saluting our military members. Beck paid tribute to three individuals who made a difference in the lives of others.
Throughout the rally he stressed the importance of "faith, hope, and charity."
Participants in addition to Beck included former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin and niece of Dr. King, Alveda King, who contradicted the criticism that was waged by some present-day Civil Rights activists regarding Beck choosing to hold a rally on the anniversary of Dr. King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech on the site where he gave the speech.
Alveda King quoted her uncle, stating that when judging a man, "Look at the content of his character, not the color of his skin."
She noted that both her father and uncle were killed "for standing up for what is right."
St. Louis Cardinals baseball manager Tony LaRussa and country music performer Jo Dee Messina were on the stage, the latter singing patriotic numbers at the conclusion of the rally.
Sandra Dellicker of Summit Hill, an organizer for the local caravan, made the trip even though she had injured her ankle and had to travel with a wheelchair.
She said after the event, "We had such an uplifting experience. There was beautiful weather and such a spiritual, and uniting message for America."
Dellicker added, "How awesome to see so many patriotic Americans gathering to let everyone know that we are truly 'one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'"
Cliff Thompson of Lehighton agreed. He said, "Having all these people here was the great part. They all came together."
Beck said the cost to stage the rally was $3.1 million.
Palin told the audience, "All around us are monuments to those who have sustained us over the years in name and deed," referring to the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the various military memorials.
"We must restore America," she urged.
Both Palin and Beck assured there would be nothing political stated at the rally; that the emphasis was on restoring honor. Beck said, "This day...has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with God."
Palin spoke about military members and their sacrifices and noted that she is a mother of a soldier. She introduced several military members who have been injured, including an Air Force pilot who spent 5 1/2 years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam.
La Russa noted that the heroes of today's youth are individuals seen "in movies, on TV, and in books."
"To restore America, we must not only restore honor. We must restore heroes," Beck said.
Albert Pujols, a member of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, received a medal from Beck for his contributions made off the field.
Beck gave short speeches in-between the other participants.
He commented, "America is great because America is good," and told the gathering, "We, as individuals, must be good so America can be great."
"9/11 woke us up and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder for a very short time," Beck remarked. "Politics didn't matter. It didn't matter if you were poor or rich. We were Americans standing together."
He urged those in attendance that when they are in their homes, they should "pray on your knees," but added they shouldn't do this in private. "Pray on your knees for your children to see" and be an example for them, he said, adding that in this way, the children can see that their parents are "humble to God."
He continued, "Tell the truth, especially when the truth hurts. For charity, connect to your family. Give them extra time. Give them extra attention. Charity begins at home, first."
Beck mentioned how he had been astray until he found God.
"There comes a time when one generation must sacrifice for the next," he said.
He added, "We must take it on so our children can have a chance."
Buses with people came from as far as California and Oregon.
Rusty Fisher traveled to the rally from Beaumont, Texas, bringing with him a 10-foot cross made out of aluminum and pulled on wheels. The 64-year-old retired roofer made the cross and noted that in 1994, he walked with it from Beaumont to Washington D.C. It took him 4 1/2 months.
He said he started walking again this year, and managed to walk 100 miles before being overcome by heat stroke. As a result, he was forced to drive to the rally in his pick-up truck.
"This is beautiful," he said of the rally. "Thank God. We need this."
At the end of the rally, a bagpiper accompanied by a chorus played the hymn "Amazing Grace."
Edna Walsh of Lehighton stated, "This was a most excellent event. It was very uplifting. It was wonderful to see so many people who want to honor God; put integrity back into our great country."