Rallying for reason

Over the past few weeks, a sense of excitement has grown in the nation’s capital. On the metro, at work, in classes: everyone I talked to had a single favorite topic of conversation. This building anticipation wasn’t limited to D.C. People around the country were being swept into the fever. What was the cause of all of this fervor?
Tuesday’s mid-term elections? No. An awesome new movie with an innovative plot? Nope. The enthusiasm was in anticipation of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity last Saturday. All of the hype over the past few weeks, as well as the turnout on Saturday, has left me in awe once more at the way in which politics and entertainment collide.

Almost everybody I talked to in D.C. was planning to go to the rally, yet nobody seemed to know what the purpose of the rally was. We were all clueless as to whether or not the rally would be political, whether the tone would be funny or serious, whether there would be speeches or performances. Perhaps in an attempt to not alienate any potential attendees, Comedy Central kept the schedule for the rally under wraps. The only sneak peek rallyers got came in the form of a leaked, partial schedule the day before the event.

Despite not having a clue what to expect, over two hundred thousand people answered Stewart and Colbert’s rally calls. The event turned out to be more of a variety show than a traditional political rally. Spectators were treated to a lot of comedic bickering from Colbert and Stewart, a slew of musical performances and a number of taped segments from special guests. The only real speech of the day came from Jon Stewart at the very end of the three-hour event. In a rare break from satire, Stewart delivered an earnest ode to reason. He applauded the crowd for seeing beyond the virulent partisan attitudes that he said only really exist in Washington politics and cable news shows.

The rally was remarkable, not because of the groundbreaking ideas it presented, but because of the insight into the minds of Americans it provided. Nobody knew what to expect of the rally, yet hundreds of thousands of people showed up from around the country in search of something different – different from the angry, bickering power-struggle that is our political system. In his speech, Jon Stewart indicated that he hadn’t meant for his rally to be political, but it was. Millions of people around the country turned to two comedians last weekend to send a powerful pre-election message to our country’s politicians: American people are capable of reaching compromise through reasoned discussion, and we expect our politicians to do the same.

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