Glenn Beck opened his "Restoring Honor" rally by lamenting the "garish light of America today," and said it was time to reverse course from "what we've allowed ourselves to become." Speaking at the Lincoln Memorial 47 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in the same spot, Beck said, "Something beyond imagination is happening."
"America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness. This really is 'Build it and they will come,'" he added.
Crowds gathered for the event stretched from the Lincoln Memorial all the way to the World War II Memorial. One person held a cardboard cutout of President Obama and asked people what they would tell him, CBS News' Fernando Suarez reports. One man said he'd punch the president in the face, while another said he'd take Mr. Obama to jail.
For the most part, however, the crowd was calm. Beck had asked his supporters not to bring political signs to the event, which was ostensibly non-political (despite the presence of Sarah Palin, among others). Most of the assembled crowd complied, opting for American flags instead of political messages.
Beck said that heroes like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington had disappeared from American life, but that the next generation of those heroes were in the crowd, and were the children of those who had come to an event he had compared to Woodstock. He would go on to oversee the awarding of the "badge of merit" to three Americans he cast as modern-day heroes, people who "stand and do the right thing," among them an African-American pastor who called Beck a "servant of God."
There was a clear religious overtone to the event, with a pastor offering a prayer and Beck peppering his comments with references to God. In addition to "restoring" honor, the event was designed to honor members of the military, which Beck said was one of the few institutions that Americans continue to trust.
"Our fighting men and women do the things that most of us don't even want to think about," he said, before introducing speakers from (and asking for donations in support of) the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Beck, who predicted that 100,000 people would show up with a rally, opened his comments with a joke: "I have just gotten word from the media that there is over 1,000 people here today."
CBS News will release its crowd size estimate later today but thought to be 'substantial'.
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