The Education of Glenn Beck

Depending on where you get your news, I was one of about 87,000 -- or a number approaching 350,000 -- on the National Mall this past Saturday at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" event.

Despite the scoffing and screaming of the knights of the keyboard and czars of the cable nets that Beck is a hateful, lying racist and the throngs on the National Mall were bigoted, gullible dupes, Beck's gathering was a peaceful, orderly love-in -- love of country, love of our heritage, love of fellow patriots no matter their origin.

Think what you will of Glenn Beck -- the descriptions are legion: He is a goof. He cries a lot. Sometimes he says some truly head-scratching stuff. He is America's history professor or the next P.T. Barnum. But there are some self-evident truths about Glenn Beck.

The man has a deep love of the United States. He has committed himself to deep and thoughtful study of the actual documents, letters, and papers of the men who founded this nation. He is on a quest to know the answers to his questions about our founders, such as "What did they mean?" "What did they want for us?" "To whom are we the people truly beholden?"

For that, he is light-years ahead of most, if not all, of our elected representatives in all the councils of government, and certainly most of the citizenry. He has a deep reverence for the military and the many sacrifices they have made -- not just recently, but throughout the history of this republic. Beck has come to intensely know just what they are protecting. By the way, Beck and the crowd instantly raised $5 million for his Special Forces Warrior Foundation on Saturday.

Taking all of this newfound education, Beck realized that to truly effect the kind of change for which all patriots cry out, he must utilize something about which he already knew: the majestically simple concept that a microphone is used for amplification. His microphone amplifies to millions each week. Beck's gathering was a synthesis of his professional knowledge and his ongoing education to do everything he can to begin a renewal in our country. The results speak for themselves.  

Reflecting upon the scene in Washington on Saturday, though, recalling the amazing ecumenical and -- yes -- diverse mosaic of America, the most striking thing about Glenn Beck in the context of his being painted a racist is the realization that he -- and judging from the crowd's reactions, his audience, too -- really believes in the words of Martin Luther King's speech on that very spot in 1963. This belief stems from how closely wedded King's words were to the founding documents. Beck believes (actually, he knows) that this nation was founded on the principles of Judeo-Christian ethic and that all are equal under the law -- though we have the scars to prove it has taken some longer than others to live up to these principles.

Beck's argument and his plea to the citizens of the United States are simple: The founders knew that without God, without faith, there could have been no revolution and there could be no keeping our republic. Because the nation has largely abandoned these principles, and because we have abandoned even the ideas and spirit of the words Dr. King addressed to the entire nation, we are at risk. Our government has strayed far from its prescribed path. Our culture has strayed far from its prescribed path. As Glenn Beck and millions upon millions see it, we are at risk, and those are the reasons why.

All of this was evident to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. It was evident in the list of invitees to his rally. It was evident in their speeches and, in some cases, their mere presence. It was evident in Beck's words and evident in the spirit of the entire morning and afternoon. The joy, hope, and fellowship among the attendees brought to mind Dr. King's words from 1963: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."

What Beck has learned in his massive and intense self-education project is that the vision of the founders and the vision of King are teetering on the precipice. This restoration, this awakening, has been slowly gaining momentum for a long time -- those of us paying attention know that this groundswell has been growing for a great deal more than a decade, regardless of the political affiliation of congressional majorities or occupants of the White House.

All Glenn Beck did Saturday was use his power of amplification to demonstrate that "with firm reliance on divine providence," those citizens who still believe in the ideals of the founders and the dream of the civil rights movement are preparing to wrest control from those who would turn these principles on their heads. Perhaps what Glenn Beck did was distribute microphones to those of us who are preparing to send a clear message in November and beyond. Let freedom ring.

Matthew May welcomes comments at