Beck’s keynote address was not specifically political, it was more a revival speech, complete with his trademark on-the-verge-of-tears moments, such as when he talked about ‘looking for the next George Washington’ in the audience. The speech seemed to be nothing more than an hour’s worth of motivation on a nice day in the nation’s capital, complete with flags, historical references, revered monuments, and even a guy in a tri-cornered hat popping up on the big screen every now and then.
So if it wasn’t political, what was the rally all about? I’ve listened to his keynote address a couple of times, my first heavy indoctrination of Beck-speak. Given that 8/28 is already a special day in our history, the anniversary of Martin Luther King 's I Have a Dream speech, there were some doubters about the supposed ‘divine intervention’ that led him to have his rally, where he had it, when he had it. Not surprisingly, Beck echoed several of King’s themes, especially as the self-professed reclaimer of the civil rights movement. Here’re a few examples:
- King: We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
- Beck: This day is a day that we can start the heart of America again… We have a choice today… We can either look at our scars, look at the scars of our nation… we have a choice today to either let those scars crush us, or redeem us… We are gathered here today, in a hallowed spot.
- King: But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
- Beck: There is growing hatred in the country – we must be better than what we have allowed ourselves to become. We must get the poison of hatred out of us – no matter what anyone may say or do, no matter what anyone smears or lies or throws our way, or any American’s way…we must look to God and look to love, we must defend those we disagree with, but are honest and have integrity.
- King: And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.
- Beck: It matters not where we are, it matters not where we have been, it matters what we are doing today that makes a difference.
- Ted Kennedy: For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
- Beck: It does not end here, it shall not end now, not in my generation or your generation, it is up to us…
- John Kennedy: Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
- Beck: Look forward, look west, look to the heavens, look to God… Make your choice… We as individuals must be good so America can be great… One man can change the world… That man or woman is you – you make the difference… Do not look to someone else, look to yourself... Pick up your stick and stand!
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He also told us that “there’s a lot we can disagree on, but our values and our principles can unite us” and that we must discover them again. Pretty benign stuff, right?
But does his public persona live up to the standards he’s asking us to take forward from the rally? Some would say no, based on the information found here, just one of several places where Beck’s statements are debunked or exposed. He’s on occasion a racist, revisionist, elitist, anti-woman, anti-poor, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, communist exposer… oh, and on the political side, a Constitutionalist, big-government-hating gun-rights-supporting conservative.
At the same time he urges us to return to the America we were right after 9/11 – “politics didn’t matter, color didn’t matter, didn’t matter if we were poor or rich, we were Americans standing together”, he encourages us via his 9/12 project to ask ourselves a few questions:
- Do you watch the direction that America is being taken in and feel powerless to stop it?
- Do you believe that your voice isn’t loud enough to be heard above the noise anymore?
- Do you read the headlines everyday and feel an empty pit in your stomach… as if you’re completely alone?
Yep. Turn to God. All men are created equal. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. Our principles will unite us. I only hope that folks who buy into the 8/28 speech – particularly the uninitiated - are aware of this other side of Beck, the real side, and find the right path to take as they travel with their stick.