We went to the Washington Convention Center out of curiosity. The final night of the three-day conference "Baptist Fundamentalism '84," which was open to the public, featured speeches by President Reagan and Jerry Falwell.
The cavernous convention center held a crowd of about 13,000. Spectators had come from all over the country for what Falwell had called the "greatest event of the century." He specifically noted that the Friday evening session with Reagan "may well be our most glorious hour ever."
Six of us from Sojourners arrived at the convention center in time to get in before the Secret Service closed the doors an hour before Reagan was to speak. The Liberty Baptist College singers were performing. All of Liberty Baptist's 4,500 students had been given three days off from school and free lodging, food, and transportation to the event. We worked our way to the front section of the hall, where the only seats available were singles.
The crowd erupted with a roar when Reagan and Falwell entered the auditorium from backstage. The ovation continued as the president shook hands with the 50 men seated on the stage; then it broke into an even louder cry when Reagan shook Falwell's hand and held it in the air. The crowd was only calmed when Falwell pointed to his watch indicating the need to proceed.
Falwell began by dedicating a song to the president on behalf of himself and the many other participants and sponsors of the event. The song was one of patriotism, and, as the singer performed, the wall-sized video screens throughout the hall showed first a military cemetery and then the American flag waving in the wind. The line "This is our flag" brought cheers and shouts of "Amen" each time it was sung. The song ended to enthusiastic applause.