Driven by two satirical news hosts, Saturday’s Rally to Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive brought massive foot traffic to Washington, D.C., with many University of Mary Washington students in attendance. The following is a first-person account of the rally and one student’s experiences.
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010: At 6:30 a.m., I woke up to my hellish alarm clock, much too early for a Saturday morning. One hour later, I left my cozy apartment with my girlfriend to walk through the below-freezing temperatures to her car. I’d been looking forward to this day since late September.
After picking up coffee, I braved traffic on I-95N to the Springfield Metro station. It was packed, but by 8:30, we were on a train to D.C. to see Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s rally.
After one stop, the train was standing room only. People of all ages, races and political views surrounded us, but this wasn’t a disorderly Metro ride. Despite the eclectic group, everybody was being reasonable.
The passengers conversed, showed off their signs, said, “Excuse me,” and exhibited a remarkable amount of courtesy. Certainly, they exemplified the spirit of the rally, and for once, I actually enjoyed riding a crowed metro.
By 9:30 a.m., I was on the National Mall. I found a decent place to sit behind the first Jumbotron, one of several massive screens placed sporadically throughout the Mall. We were supposed to meet up with several friends, but I realized that wouldn’t happen when my cell phone network was unavailable.
When the rally started at noon, the crowd extended beyond the horizon and was well beyond the space Stewart and Colbert had originally reserved.
There were outlandish people with hilarious signs such as, “Your a MORAN,” and despite the crowds, people generally weren’t acting belligerent, weren’t voicing their annoyances, and were well mannered.
Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the “Mythbusters” hosts, conducted some experiments with the crowd.
One experiment, a massive simultaneous jump, registered a two on the Richter scale, according to the Museum of Natural History, which has an up-to-the-minute record of seismic activity.
CBS News estimated that 215,000 people attended the rally. Before the event, the rally expected 87,000 people in attendance. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 had approximately 200,000 attendees.
While some media cynicism pointed toward the millennial generation’s inability to get behind a “real cause,” the rally had several purposes.
According to the Rally to Restore Sanity’s website, its purpose was to provide a place for attendees to be heard above what he called the more vocal and extreme 15 to 20 percent of Americans who control the conversation of American politics.
The rally was also used as a charity event to raise money for education through donorschoose.org, an organization in which Colbert is on the Board of Directors. According to the Washington Post, supporters raised over $100,000 in the first 24 hours and a total of $250,000 in the subsequent days.
On the “Daily Show” and during the rally, Stewart encouraged people that were rallying to donate to the Trust for the National Mall. As of Oct. 31, over $188,000 had been donated to the Trust, according to their website.
Along with the “Mythbusters” hosts, guests at the rally included Yusuf Islam (formally known as Cat Stevens), Ozzie Osbourne, Kid Rock with Sheryl Crow, John Legend, the Roots, Jeff Tweedy with Mavis Staples, the O’Jays and Tony Bennett.
Actors Sam Waterston and Don Novello, appearing as Father Guido Sarducci, were also there.
Other guests included 4troops, R2-D2 and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Despite a day of tongue-in-cheek comedy, there was a more serious undertone pointing out that not every American supports the extreme right or left side of politics. At the rally, the “silent majority” finally had the chance to vocalize their opinions.
Photo: Lindley Estes/Bullet