Shannon Beydler ’12 and Haley Wright ’11 stood on the corner of 7th street and Constitution Avenue in Washington D.C. with a sign and several boxes of cookies.
“Come on you guys,” a voice boomed. “Get your Jon Stewart cookies over here.”
The day before, Oct. 29, Wright and McClain Powell ’13 baked the 400 cookies in the kitchen of Jamestown North, to be sold to raise funds for their upcoming service trip to Belize.
Luckily for them, hundreds of thousands of people were gathered on the National Mall that day for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by Stewart ’84 of “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report.”
Beydler came up with the fundraising idea the day after Stewart announced the Rally.
“I thought of the idea as soon as I found out about the Rally.” Beydler said. “Since he was an alum and I was up here [for the William and Mary in Washington Program] I figured it was a way for me to contribute to fundraising, since I can’t be on campus.”
Sporting William and Mary T-shirts, their mentioning of the College brought out support and spirit from alumni passing by.
Thomas Jorannstad J.D. ’13 and Bailey Roese J.D. ’13 stopped to donate.
Jorannstad and Roese were among many students from the College who drove up to attend the rally. Many people, such as Roese, came for the political message of calmer discourse.
“We wanted to offer something counter to the tea party,” Roese said. “Politics is a little too extreme at this point.”
“Normally I’d be sitting at home doing nothing, so why not do a little something?” Jorannstad added.
John Tereska, ’12 came looking for entertainment. Tereska left Williamsburg early that morning with a friend to drive up to Washington.
“I’m totally in love with Stephen Colbert. He’s hilarious,” Tereska said. “As a government major, I’m very aware of what’s going on, but I knew it was going to be a good show. It was political, but it was funny.”
Other attendees provided entertainment as well.
“I saw a man dressed as Jesus standing on a lamp post,” Tereska said. “I shouted, ‘there’s Jesus!’”
Another Jesus showed up at the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol building, behind the rally stage. A sign around his neck read “Messiahs for Sanity” as he posed for photos at the edge of the pool, creating the illusion that he was walking on water.
Brittney Calloway ’11, who left Williamsburg later in the day said she enjoyed the sense of community that permeated the audience.
“The crowd around us was funny and kept us entertained; we met a lot of different people,” she said. “I went with the expectation that it would be very political, but it wasn’t. I appreciated a lot of the signs about civil discourse.”
At noon the thumping beats of The Roots floated out over the crowd, gearing it up for the events to come.
Stewart finally took the stage and the swell in audience cheers was audible from a few streets away.
“This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear — are, and we do,” Stewart said. “Because we know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.”
With some estimates placed around 250,000, the crowd filled the mall by 10 a.m. Volunteers who had previously handed out rally towels began manning the gates and letting new arrivals trickle in a few at a time.
Back on the corner of 7th and Constitution, Beydler and Wright continued to hand out cookies and gather donations, packing up at 1:30 PM, after spending four hours at their post.
As throngs of people continued to file past, a few more alums opened up their wallets.
“Go Tribe! Is this a Tribe cause?” Robinson Woodward ’10 asked before handing them some cash.
For many, the verdict is still out on whether the Stewart achieved his goals, or even what those goals were.