When you see Glenn Beck and his family move to Oklahoma, it's time to panic, the Fox News Channel host told a crowd of about 1,500 Oklahomans June 26 at the "Taking Our Country Back" tour stop.
Singer John Rich of the country group Big & Rich played emcee and entertainer throughout the afternoon in Oklahoma City, introducing Beck and the other headliner, Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to President George W. Bush.
The solid redness of Oklahoma was a consistent theme throughout the day; Beck's comments were meant as a commendation to the crowd for being so solidly conservative in a country he believes and later said is the victim of a liberal agenda to destroy it.
"You must wake your church up!" Beck shouted. "You must wake your minister up! You must wake your friends up! Say, 'Wake up and stand up!'"
Beck's presentation, a combination of humor, lecture, sermon and story, took the assembled crowd through what he perceives to be the cancer that is eating away American freedoms, including the implementation of what Beck called the "goals of the American Communist Party in 1963."
The presentation, with notes on Beck's iconic chalk board, was a contrast to Rove's speech earlier in the day. Using a bare list of notes, Rove talked for more than 40 minutes about the budget, deficit spending, health care reform and repeal and the need for Oklahomans to get personally involved with the political process. The speech was dense with statistics, including many million-, billion- and trillion-dollar references. Rove's finale included an appeal to the assembled crowd to pick up a copy of his "Citizen's Compact," an oath requiring participants to get educated on the political issues of the day and then commit to educate 25 family members, friends or associates.
Education was another recurrent theme, both inside and outside the arena. Prior to the nationally touring TOCB show, the local Tea Party activists held a rally outside the Ford Center. The majority of the event was given over to candidates for state offices to address the crowd. Many of the candidates told Oklahomans that they must educate themselves on the issues. The rally was low-key, and most of those present stayed in the shade of nearby buildings rather than gather around the stage.
The dominant keywords in candidates' presentations were constitutional conservatives, conservative values, government spending and invasive government. Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, said he had come to see Beck because "he talks about things that I think are important."
"What's important now is a return to constitutional principles," Key said. "He's also talking about the dual sovereignty we have in America, the state and federal government. In America, the people are sovereign."
In a sea of American flag T-shirts, Father Anthony Nelson stood out in his Obama T-shirt. He wasn't a supporter; the shirt featured a hammer and sickle, symbols associated with the Communist Party. Nelson is the priest at St. Benedict Orthodox Church in southeast Oklahoma City. He said he came to see Beck.
"I think Glenn Beck is cool," Nelson said. "He says stuff that I think, most of the time."
Nelson described himself as a "constitutional, fiscal and social conservative."
"Things seem to be going down the toilet," he said. "We need to bring back what we grew up with."
Meanwhile, Rove spoke of a "torturous road of spending that's got to stop." He warned that we were mortgaging our children's future.
The only disagreement inside the Ford Center was between Rove and Beck over the issue of the Patriot Act. Rove continues to defend it, even listing it as one of President Bush's bipartisan accomplishments. Beck simply called it a "dumb idea."
"We don't violate the principles that we all supposedly hold dear," Beck said. "It's a dumb idea."
Beck peppered his presentation with references to God, and told a story about German pastor and concentration camp victim Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom he referred to as Eric. Rove limited himself to a few oblique references about worship, but Rich was more outspoken.
"The statistics say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million professing Christians who were eligible to vote did not vote last election," Rich said. "Why do you think Obama is our president? God is in heaven saying, 'I gave them the strongest, most prosperous, most powerful empire of freedom in the world, and they're so lazy, they won't get off their asses and vote! Fine! Barack Obama is going to be your president then!'"
All the speakers implored the audience to get involved at the local level, to speak up and to influence others.
"To not speak up is to speak," Beck said. "To not stand up is to take a stand for something. You must speak." "Greg Horton | photo/Adam Kemp