As nearly anyone with an even passing interest in Fox News knows, Glenn Beck is convening a "Restoration of Honor" Rally at the Lincoln Memorial this Saturday, Aug. 28, in Washington, D.C., in front of the Lincoln Memorial. His rally is schedule to occur at the same place, 47 years later to the date, of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech to more than 250,000 people assembled at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Mr. Beck summons us to "come celebrate American by honoring our heroes and our future."
For some time it wasn't clear whether Mr. Beck scheduled his rally to coincide with the
Anniversary of Dr. King's historic address by design or accident, but the fact that Dr. King's
niece Alveda will be appearing with him on the steps speaks volumes . Beck says it is a "non-political event that pays tribute to America's service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor." Until otherwise indicated, we take him at his word.
I have already heard comments on the cable television political news shows criticizing him for holding his event at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on the same date where the March on Washington took place. There may or may not be a valid basis for criticism. It does not appear so from the words used to describe his event. Only the reality of actions taken and words spoken this Saturday will show whether such criticism was valid.
In his website invitation to persons to join him in Washington, Beck reminds us
that "throughout history America has seen many great leaders and noteworthy citizens change
her course." He writes "It is through their personal virtues and by their example that we are
able to live as a free people."
Indeed, I agree on that point. Beck and his followers have a unique opportunity to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. as an extraordinary example of one of America's "great leaders and noteworthy citizens," who by enabling our country to peacefully end American apartheid, changed our nation's course for us to live as a free people. The substance of Dr.King's speech 47 years ago at the Lincoln Memorial was a plea to America to "Restore its Honor." Or, in the words of Beck, "to restore the values that founded this great nation."
In collaboration with Stuart Connelly, I recently completed a book, describing the original "March On Washington" event, in real time, for today's generation. Titled Behind The Dream: Inside The Speech That Transformed A Nation, published by Palgrave Macmilloan (out on January 4, 2011), we provide a firsthand, never-before-told, story of the behind the scenes, discussions of the organizers of the MOW and a detailed description about the backstage discussions of the organizers of The March and a detailed description of the
preparation and delivery by Dr. King of his famous speech. We recommend our book to Beck and his followers to refresh their recollection of the magnitude of the great debt our nation owes to Martin Luther King, Jr. for his efforts, in Beck's words, to restore America's honor and the "the values that founded this great nation."
Those of us who worked on convening the "March On Washington" during July and August 1963 are envious of the technology now available to organize and coordinate such an event. In our book I comment on the possibilities of how much more effective our rally 47 years ago at the Lincoln Memorial would have been had we had the use of the internet and various mobile technologies. A review of Beck's "Restoring our Honor " website makes one muse, what if we had had this kind of communications tool available to us as we planned and
executed the 1963 March on Washington?"
Beck, Sarah Palin and others who are summoning people today to join them to restore the honor of America, whether intended or not, are following in the footsteps of Dr. King. He spoke prophetically about their generation. Indeed, he had a "Dream" that young Becks and Palins, when they became adults, would join hands not only with members of their "Tea Party," but, all Americans of goodwill, regardless of their race, color or ethnicity, to restore the honor and values enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
Civil Rights leaders who justifiably stake a "proprietary" claim to the legacy of the March on Washington and Dr. King's "Dream" 47 years ago should reach out and extend the hand of fellowship to Beck and his followers. We have set the bar extremely high for
all protests on the federal government. In his choice of date and location, he is clearly holding
himself to a serious set of standards. Subject to eventual content of the program planned on this anniversary date, we should, in the tradition and legacy of Dr. King, welcome and extend a hand to him and all persons who are committed to social justice, equality and restoring the honor of America.
Those of us who are blessed by longevity and privileged to have played a strategic role in the success of our "March on Washington" at the Lincoln Memorial where Beck plans to assemble his followers should be especially proud of our efforts. It was through our example and those of more than 250,000 of our multiracial brothers and sisters that summoned our fellow citizens to restore our nation's honor and values upon which our country was founded.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, and he has wonders to perform. Accordingly, we extend the hand of fellowship to Beck, Palin and their followers this weekend, and ask them to symbolically join hands with us to recommit ourselves to Dr. King's "Dream."