Restore, renew, reclaim. Two rallies take place today in Washington on this anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. One is on the spot where Dr. King delivered that famous oration. The other nearby, but headed to the Mall as well. They’re being reported as being two very different groups of activists in tension, having two competing messages. But they’re not. Or….need not be.

This WaPo story has gone through several revisions in several hours. But it’s a snapshot of the whole thing, both as it is (facts are there) and as it’s being portrayed by the press and certain politicians (information is arranged strategically). Television host and commentator Glenn Beck organized the “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Rev. Al Sharpton arranged the “Reclaim the Dream” rally to begin at Dunbar High School and continue in a march to the Mall.

Actually, both groups are claiming very similar purposes and have similar messages.

Beck’s is the headlined event. He opened with this:

“We have had moments of brilliance and moments of darkness. But this country has spent far too long worried about scars and thinking about the scars and concentrating on the scars. Today, we are going to concentrate on the good things in America, the things that we have accomplished – and the things that we can do tomorrow. The story of America is the story of humankind.”

A lot of participants are telling the media that’s the message that drew them to attend this event.

Beck’s rally has been billed as a peaceful and non-political “re-dedication” of the traditional honor and values of the nation. The event is taking place on the same stage where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years ago to the day, a coincidence that has caused controversy.

It wouldn’t seem to be a coincidence, and at this point you have to wonder what’s so controversial about a rally to inspire honor and dignity on the spot where Dr. King delivered his inspirational speech. But WaPo tells you in so many words, by noting the crowd was “overwhelmingly white.” (Cue reader to be race conscious.) Also…

The crowd, consisting of many from the Midwest and the South, was not visibly angry.

There were probably many from other parts of the country, too, but that line is another cue to think stereotypes.

Sarah Palin’s participation in Beck’s rally, no matter what she said, was sure to draw the most attention.

Palin said she was speaking not as a politician, but as the mother of a combat veteran. Evoking the legacies of King, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Palin called on Americans to restore traditional values to the country.

“We must not fundamentally transform America, as some would want,” Palin said. “We must restore America and restore her honor.”

“Here today, at the crossroads of our history, may this day be the change point,” Palin said. “Look around you. You’re not alone. You are Americans! You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them.”

So now the focus goes to the “counter-demonstration” nearby, starting with a quote from one attendee “who arrived early to show her opposition to Beck.”

“If we hadn’t elected a black president, do you think they would be doing this today?” she asked.

Why inject race and controversy into a day of reflection and inspiration? But there’s more here…

[Baltimore resident Tehuti] Imhotep shouted at passersby: “This is our real history. [Beck’s] trying to redefine the civil rights movement. How insensitive! King was about bringing people together. This man Beck is pulling people apart.”

How? Dr. King’s niece, civil rights activist Dr. Alveda King, was a featured speaker at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, the article doesn’t note.

Fox News did a live interview at the “Reclaim the Dream” rally with the Dunbar High School principal, a very thoughtful man who had nothing but positive words about encouraging students to achieve honor by setting and pursuing noble goals.

I’m hearing the same message in both groups, and wish they would get together.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....