Charged with the goal of reviving levelheadedness in politics, a swarm of Tufts students traveled by plane, car and bus to attend a Saturday rally in Washington.
The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on the National Mall, was Stewart’s “call to reasonableness,” an effort to stem what he believes is an overly-politicized mainstream media that often succeeds more in fear-mongering than informing the public.
“The country’s 24-hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic ‘conflictinator’ did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder,” Stewart said in remarks at the end of the three-hour rally. “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”
He urged Americans to inject reason into discussions of politically charged issues and called for a rejection of the extremes projected through certain media outlets.
“This is not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism … or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do,” he said. “But we live now in hard times, not end times.”
In addition to a comedy skit between Colbert and Stewart, the event, which by some estimates drew over 215,000 attendees, featured performances by a number of musicians, including Cat Stevens, Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne and Sheryl Crow.
Approximately 50 Tufts students traveled by charter bus to the event. Sophomore Simon Metcalf organized the bus ride after surmising that such a route would be the most efficient way to get to get to the Mall.
Students left campus at 10 p.m. on Friday night and arrived in Washington at 6 a.m., just in time to get front row seats, Metcalf said. They returned to campus at 2 a.m. Sunday morning.
Sophomore Joshua Elliott, who traveled on the bus, said that in spite of the long journey to Washington, the rally was worth the ride. Stewart and Colbert, he said, structured their performances tactfully, combining comedy and sincerity to deliver a meaningful message.
“I guess people feared that Jon Stewart would break character as a comedian and go super political,” Elliott said. “He did a good job of not going too far in any one direction.”
A sizeable number of students used other means to join the rally-goers.
Sophomores Beau Coker and Brandon Archambault traveled by plane to Washington. Archambault was pleased that Stewart maintained a lighthearted, comedic tone throughout the event, even while urging the crowd to remain more coolheaded than the mainstream media.
“If I could sum it all up in a phrase, it seemed to be ‘chill out,'” he said.
In spite of the comedian’s advice, Archambault was skeptical that the rally would have a sizeable effect on the outcome of today’s elections. He believed that most of the people in the crowd already came in with established political leanings and likely did not support the extreme views that Stewart decried.
“I think it definitely woke up somebody, but I can’t really say it will have a noticeable impact,” he said.
Senior Makiko Harris agreed. She said that though the rally might not significantly change anyone’s opinions going into the elections, it offered a semblance of unity for attendees.
“Jon Stewart was preaching to the crowd he was always preaching to,” she said. “At the same time, it gives people a sense of solidarity. Just the fact that there were so many people who arrived — it was really sort of uplifting for all those people.”
Harris arrived at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning following a 13-hour car ride from Tufts. Despite the trek, she said, Stewart’s speech was effective and well worth the effort to get there.
“He wasn’t saying that the country doesn’t have threats or serious problems … but there isn’t a need to spread this unneeded, unwarranted fear,” she said. “When we magnify certain tiny events, it creates this culture of fear that is unnecessary and exacerbates all the problems that we already have.”
Coker believed that the rally might boost enthusiasm among left-leaning individuals, but would not impact voter positions considerably.
“It might motivate more Democratically aligned voters to go to the polls,” he said. “I’m a pretty liberal person, so I hope it will, but I really don’t know.”