By Chantel Delulio
On Oct. 30 over 200,000 people flocked to Washington D.C. in order to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and / or Fear. The rally, hosted by “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart and “The Colbert Report’s” Stephen Colbert, billed itself as “a call to reasonableness.”
Among those assembled on the National Mall were Washington College students who faced long lines, overcrowded Metro cars, and a city packed to the gills in order to attend the rally. Some were drawn by their curiosity, others in the hopes of making a statement about their feelings on the current state of political discourse in the country.
Senior Kathleen Bromelow cited her reason for attending the rally was her “naïve view” that participating in the rally would act as a symbol conveying her frustration with how people interact in political forums.
“I’m all for different opinions,” said Bromelow. “But you don’t need to shout. Let’s talk it out [because] if everybody’s yelling there’s only noise, which means no points are getting across. And that just leads to frustration. Whether it comes from the left or right I just want to hear.”
In his Sept. 16 announcement on “The Daily Show,” Stewart dubbed the rally “a million moderate march” geared toward people interested in “spreading the timeless message: Take it down a notch for America.”
The event was aimed at potential attendees who have been exasperated with political extremists dominating the national conversation. It called for people to be able to put aside partisanship in the name of unity. But it also had the goal of calling attention to the fallout of the news media’s hyperactivity.
Indeed, the rally has drawn criticism for being unfocused in its purpose. Even Stewart himself acknowledged its somewhat vague nature. “So what exactly was this?” he said jokingly to the crowd gathered on the mall in his closing speech.
Indeed, though the rally had been criticized for being somewhat indistinct in its objective. Sophomore Claire Donald said that the point seemed to be “to prove there was a large group of people who cared” and that there “needs to be a middle ground.” Sophomore Katie Sykes stated the purpose of the event was “to call attention to the fact that the media is getting out of hand.”
The rally itself was originally conceived as an Internet movement calling on Colbert to hold a rally in response to Glenn Beck’s August 28 Rally to Restore Honor. The movement was subsequently picked up by the two hosts who, after many “pre-anouncements,” made it official. Stewart’s was dubbed the Rally to Restore Sanity and Colbert’s was given the tongue-in-cheek title of The March to Keep Fear Alive. Due to the fact that they encountered difficulties with establishing a location for Colbert’s march, the two events were eventually merged into one.
Both Stewart and Colbert are often noted for their popularity among the younger set, but to those who attended saw that the rally reflected a diverse grouping of people, particularly the presence of older generations.
Indeed, though the day featured performances from acts such as The Roots and Kid Rock that are usually more popular among younger people, there were artists that have been more closely associated with being popular among older audiences. Ozzy Osourne, Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), and Tony Bennett all took to the stage in musical performances and Don Novello revived his Father Guido Sarducci character for a special “benediction.” It was not “just a kid thing,” said Donald. “I probably saw more people in their 40s than anything else.”
The event attracted people from all over the country. Sykes noted attendees who had come from New Jersey and Maine and Bromelow saw cars in the Metro station parking lot bearing license plates from places as far Texas and California. Most WC students’ decision to attend was spurred by D.C.’s proximity to campus. “It’s D.C. It’s right there,” said Sykes. The rally had its share of highlights with Sykes noting the Osbourne performance and the presentation from Mythbusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. Bromelow noting the Point Counterpoint segment during which Stewart and Colbert argued on behalf of their respective goals. “It was the ultimate face off of fear versus sanity,” said Bromelow.
But Bromelow said that the most “overpowering part [was] that that many people came out to prove that they want sanity in their government.”
Though the rally appeared to have little impact on the recent Nov. 2 elections and has had no immediately discernable affects Bromelow said that the rally was not without its success. “[It made] a statement. A statement about coming together and re-evaluating how things are done in Washington.”