Some 70 members of the Centre College community traveled 1,150 miles to Washington, D.C., this past weekend to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear), hosted by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Though the crowd was huge and not all plans went according to schedule, most agree the whirlwind trip was worth the effort.
The majority of students traveled from Danville to the D.C. area on a bus, which left campus Friday evening and arrived in Virginia early Saturday morning. Most were able to catch a little bit of sleep before hoping on the standing-room only Metro train for the half-hour ride into D.C. for the rally, which was held from noon to 3 p.m.
An estimated 215,000 individuals showed up for the event on the Mall, and few students were able to meet up with each other and D.C.-area Centre alumni at the designated meeting area. However, this didn’t deter them from trying hard to see and hear as much as they could of what was happening on stage.
Greg Brooks ’11 of Centerville, Ohio, president of the Centre Republicans, and Abby Woehrle ’11 of Peoria, Ariz., president of the Centre Democrats, were both interviewed by a Norwegian television station.
“I think this rally is a great representation of the average American,” Woehrle says. She says that individuals were at the rally collectively to say that rationality can be restored to politics by calling national media away from extremes that do not focus on important issues.
Madeline Sellars ’13, of Elkin, N.C., watches The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night. She says that as soon as the rallies were officially announced, she began making plans to go to D.C.
“There was no way I was going to pass up a chance to see Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in the flesh,” she explains. “I was really excited when I found out that the campus Democrats and Republicans were organizing a trip. I was excited to share this amazing experience with other people from Centre.”
And, luckily, Sellars was in a really good spot where she could see and hear everything happening on stage.
“I had an absolutely awesome time at the Rally,” she says. “It was everything I hoped and more.” She says one of her favorite parts was the dueling “Peace Train” and “Crazy Train” performance. Sellars is referring to the Colbert and Stewart skit that involved Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stephens) singing “Peace Train” against Ozzy Osbourne singing “Crazy Train.” The skit culminated with a performance of “Love Train” by the O’Jays.
“I thought the whole thing was incredibly humorous, but I also think the message being presented of sanity is incredibly important,” Sellars says.
Brooks told the Norwegian television reporter that he believes there needs to be more focus on rational debating of the issues in American politics instead of jumping to extremes and having to defend a political party “no matter what stupid thing they say.”
“In the end,” Brooks added, “we’re all one nation, and we have to fix it together.”
Maria Kennedy ’11 of Louisville thought the rally was a fantastic opportunity and says she’s happy so many Centre students got to take advantage of it.
“I chose to attend the rally because of its bipartisan message and call for reasonable discourse,” she explains. “Jon Stewart’s central message boils down to this: constructive debate, not destructive hate. That kind of message really resonates with me; I’m passionate about politics and the future of my country, but so are many others who have different ideas about how best to help our nation grow.”
Kennedy continues: “I, like other rally attendees, welcome those differences of opinion. As long as you have the nation’s best interests in mind, your opinion should be respected and valued, not derided or ignored.”
Emily Donlon ’14, of Danville, Ky., had never visited the nation’s capital before traveling there for the rally. While she admits to being a little overwhelmed by how many people were at the event, she says she’s really proud of what her school was doing there.
“Just a group of Centre kids—in our nation’s capital—rallying for sanity!” Donlon says.
Donlon says she had plenty of time on the bus ride to think about what the rally meant to her.
“For far too long has politics and the media in America been dominated by radical extremes,” she says. “Where are the sane, rational people in this country? The people presented in the media are not representatives of the majority. The majority are people like you and me who want to see progress in this country.”