Utahns join Beck, Palin at 'Restoring Honor' rally
Washington • To Amy Clements, the country clearly is headed in the opposite direction intended by its founders.
The Spanish Fork mother says any sense of honesty is gone, kindness is disappearing and worshiping God forsaken. Standing among tens of thousands of like-minded souls Saturday, Clements finally felt a sea change.
"I hope this proves to the leaders and the media that there are a lot of us who are tired of the games being played," she said. "I don't care if they're Republicans or Democrats, all politicians do the same thing" focus on getting re-elected at the cost of good government.
Clements was among the vast crowd estimated in the tens of thousands gathered Saturday on the National Mall to hear conservative commentator Glenn Beck and tea party champion Sarah Palin as they called for a return to traditional American values.
The event took place on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Civil rights leaders who accused the group of hijacking King's legacy held their own rally and march in the Washington area.
While Beck billed his event as nonpolitical, activists from around the nation said their show of strength was a clear sign that they can make a difference in the country's future and that they want a government that will listen and unite.
Palin told the crowds that stretched from the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the grass of the Washington Monument that calls to transform the country weren't enough. "We must restore America and restore her honor," said the former Alaska governor, echoing the name of the rally, "Restoring Honor."
Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008 and a potential White House contender in 2012, and Beck repeatedly cited King and made references to the Founding Fathers. Beck put a heavy religious cast on nearly all his remarks, sounding at times like an evangelical preacher.
"Something beyond imagination is happening," he said. "America today begins to turn back to God."
Clements who claimed her spot near the Reflecting Pool at noon Friday and stayed up all night to hold it said the rally wasn't about Glenn Beck, but about standing together with a common cause.
Utahns weren't only in the audience, but were mentioned in the program as well. Beck honored Utah billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. for donating much of his fortune to charity. Huntsman, attending his granddaughter's wedding a few miles away, wasn't at the rally.
For one Utahn, the focus on Beck and the mention of Huntsman both members of the LDS Church added an emphasis on Mormons.
"The church spends so much money on those [new] Mormon ads, but this is a huge amount of awareness for the church," said Robert Higginson of Springville. "Maybe there will be a realization that we're more like [other Christian faiths] than we used to be perceived."
American flags sprouted from hand after hand in the crowd while the yellow Don't Tread On Me banner, popular with tea party followers, was spread throughout the crowd, too. The Constitution found a home on scores of T-shirts, as did the rally's theme, "Restoring Honor."
Dan Baltes, head of a group called Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, organized two buses and a van to travel from Salt Lake City through Phoenix and Austin, Texas, for the rally.
"Putting this together, I had a lot of opportunities to talk to a lot of Americans and every single one of them told me the same thing that they're scared," Baltes said. "That the things that are going on right now are just mind-boggling. They have a government that doesn't hear them, doesn't represent what they want and doesn't have the best interest for America at heart."
Farther up the Mall, Brooke and Ryan Hardcastle from Ogden watched as their three kids Will, Halle and Cambelle played in the grass.
"We need to put country first and not [politicians'] own political ambitions first," Brooke Hardcastle said. "Rather than worrying about their constituents, they're worried about re-election."
Although the rally fell on the same date and the same spot where King gave his history-making speech, Beck has said it was purely coincidental he chose that date. Beck brought out King's niece, Alveda King, to speak and paid tribute to the slain leader in a video montage.
But Saturday's rally struck a sour chord with civil rights advocates and black leaders.
At the counter rally, Washington, D.C.'s nonvoting House member, Eleanor Holmes Norton, dismissed the Beck event.
"You can't blame Glenn Beck for his March-on-Washington envy," she said. "Too bad he doesn't have a message to match the place."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.