Shaking and shivering a bit, I struggled to keep my balance.
“You okay up there?”
My friend’s voice trembled a little… probably because I was sitting on top of his shoulders, fidgeting and grappling with my camera. I needed to get the perfect shot – one that would capture the enormous sea of people that surrounded me and consumed the entire field beneath the Washington Monument.
I had never seen anything like it.
It was Friday, January 27, 2017 – the date which hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers from all across the United States had been preparing for. Their mission: to unite and testify to the beauty of life and dignity of the human person.
The chanting, the colors, the signs – it was so lively it was overwhelming. But I guess that’s the kind of reaction you would expect from the new kid on the block. Yes, this was the first time I had ever attended the National March for Life.
In the center of Washington D.C., the growing multitude gathered around the stage. I have to say – I felt like a small drop in a moving ocean of people.
“Because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us in marches all across the nation – life is winning again in America.”
These words echoed from the stage and provoked a surge of enthusiasm in the crowd. For the first time in history, a Vice President of the United States was addressing the participants of the March for Life. But the excitement was transformed into silence when he spoke these words…which I’ll never forget:
“I urge you to press on. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the minds and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment.” – Vice President Mike Pence
Love, compassion, gentleness, and generosity – these were the characteristics of the people I encountered that day. Not one foul word, not one rude comment, was heard. There was a common respect and contagious joy among the participants.
Eventually, I got down off my friend’s poor shoulders and we listened attentively to the inspiring words and beautiful stories of the other speakers. Among these was Congresswoman Mia Love, who left the crowd awestruck when she recounted:
“Forty-one years ago a couple from Haiti could have made the choice to abort, but they didn’t. They chose life. They didn’t choose what might have been; they chose what is to come. They went and followed and fostered that life, and the future and the dreams that baby would bring. I’m certain that this couple would never have thought that that child would become the first black female Republican ever to be elected to Congress.”
Congresswoman Mia Love was that child.
NFL football star, Ben Watson, reflected on the theme of the March – the Power of One – when he said:
“Looking out, I see a sea of collective humanity, but looking closer I see individuals who have their own spheres of influence. This is the power of one. It is the power of influence, to influence people in our neighborhoods in our churches, in our workplaces on our teams. It is also the power to unite as we have today as one, for a common cause to end the unthinkable practice of abortion in America.”
As the program came to a close, we joined the moving mass that was pouring into the street. Soon enough, the March for Life had begun.
Up the road to Capitol Hill we went – smiling, singing, chanting (and taking lots of pictures). But here’s where we get to my favorite part of the whole day:
The moment when I stopped, in the middle of the March, and turned around.
Behind me was a long, winding, swath of people that filled the streets from side to side and had no end in sight. Small children, mothers with their babies, fathers with their families, teenagers, grandparents, college students, young men and women from all different walks of life – all marching together.
Then, there were the signs – reading those was just about half the fun. Here are a few of my favorites…
At the end of the day, I was left with this final thought. This march was different from other marches in a very profound way:
We were not marching for ourselves. We were not marching for our rights or in demand some social or personal petition. We were marching for the rights of other human beings – who couldn’t march or stand up for themselves.
Unfortunately, words cannot express how incredible an experience this was for me. Joy, love, passion, courage – so many emotions emanating from the crowd and filling my heart. But if I was given only one word to describe what I felt after going to this year’s March for Life in D.C., it would be hope. Hope for the unborn, hope for my generation, and hope for our country in the years to come.