Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC Saturday for Fox News commentator Glenn Beck’s “Restore America” rally, which featured Sarah Palin.
Glenn Beck organized the rally to follow-up on Tea Party gatherings, but said instead of focusing on politics, he wanted this event to feature American heroes, devotion to God, and what he called a return to traditional values. For the most part there weren’t political signs and while Beck kept the message positive Saturday, one day later he criticized President Obama’s religious beliefs. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin addressed the crowd from in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
“She’s awesome. She’s a wonderful lady, and I really I respect her a lot. I think she’s straight-forward, she’s honest, she’s not afraid to tell you what she really thinks,” West said. “Even if you don’t agree with her that’s OK, because at least you know what she thinks. And to me that’s important. I don’t’ have to agree with you, I just have to believe that you’re honest.”
West says she would vote for Palin if she ran for national office and, in fact, would vote for anyone Palin endorses. The power of getting a political nod from Palin is in the spotlight right now, as pundits are wondering how much her support is worth. She backed Alaskan Republican senate candidate Joe Miller this summer, who then got funding from the California-based Tea Party Express and did far better than expected at the polls last week.
But rally attendee Dennis Rhen, a retired engineer from Pennsylvania, says while he admires Palin and likes her politics, he doesn’t think she’s ready to lead the nation.
“I’m not totally convinced myself she’s presidential material. Maybe she is, but I’m not convinced of that yet,” Rhen said. “My worry is her popularity might divide the conservative vote enough that we may get outvoted.”
Saturday was the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall, and critics said Beck should not have chosen the day for his rally. Civil rights leaders held their
own “Reclaiming the Dream” march nearby.
The crowd for Beck was overwhelmingly white. But there were some people of color – like African American Marietta Williams, of Maryland. Williams was one of the few people who planned to attend
both rallies, and she was happy with Beck’s religious message. Williams says while she wouldn’t necessarily vote for Sarah Palin, she is glad the Alaskan was part of the 2008 presidential contest.
“She brought an energy there that we needed to feel, because our nation is really – we’re really going – morally we’re becoming very bankrupt,” Williams said. “It’s gotten worse to tell you the truth.”
Not everyone on the Mall approved of Palin. Washingtonian Virginia Harris went to the rally to politely disagree with its message. And she really doesn’t like the former Governor.
“I believe that Sarah Palin has set women back decades,” Harris said. “Her overtures of empowerment to women are the antithesis of empowerment for women.”
But Harris was definitely in the minority at the Beck rally – Two years after Sarah Palin was plucked from Alaska to run for vice president, she has an audience. They’re not united on whether she should run for president, or what her role in politics should be, but they want to hear more of what Palin has to say and cheer her on in the national spotlight.
(Top) Thousands of people gathered on the National Mall Saturday for Glenn Beck’s rally. They surrounded the Reflecting Pool that lies beneath the Lincoln Memorial. (Right) Karen West of Tennessee dressed like Uncle Sam at the Glenn Beck rally. She’s joined by her brother and mother.
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