By Gary Flanagan
Tuesday,January 12th, 2016 Noon The crowd was bigger, growing to 3500 on the front lawn of Florida’s old Capitol. Timing was impeccable, as it was also the date for Florida’s State of the State address in the new Capitol, and National Guard day on the plaza between and near both Capitols. Later that evening, President Obama would give his final State of the Union address.
Traffic was buzzing by.An enthusiastic crowd was singing God Bless America and Amazing Grace before the event.. It was sunny, in the mid 50s when the band started at 12:06.Pray for our Nation signs and American flags were given out by the Decision America team, which had met earlier at the closest church, First Baptist. At 12:15, Franklin Graham stepped to the microphone and started his 35 minutes of preaching on the stump.It was almost word for word, the same script that had been spoken a week earlier in Iowa.
There was one notable exception when he ad libbed talking about progressives.“They call themselves, ‘progressives,’ okay? That’s a nice word, isn’t it.” Graham said. “Anyone who calls themselves a ‘progressive,” you better be careful.”
Saying that the “progressives” want to “change the Constitution,” Graham said about the rally, “Having a service like this in a few years may be illegal.”
It certainly wasn’t illegal on this day.
The Florida National Guard was on hand to pass out free hotdogs, chips and drinks on the adjoining plaza. Between the old and new Capitol the Florida National Guard Band from Miami played as the the preaching continued on the front steps.Sirens blared as an elderly person had a medical emergency. Graham paused to say a quick prayer for those affected. At two points in the presentation everyone was asked to pull out their smart phones and text America to 51555.
By 1:00 pm the crowd dispersed, Governor Rick Scott walked by and took selfies with those still milling about. Franklin Graham gave a handful of media interviews, while the roadies hit the stage. The tour buses pulled up, loaded their gear and set out for Baton Rouge and the next rally at noon in Louisiana.