Billy Graham and the Presidents
The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. has a special exhibit running through October 2012 that showcases Billy Graham's relationship with all the U.S. Presidents since Harry Truman.
The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. has a special exhibit running through October that showcases my father's relationship with all the U.S. Presidents since Harry Truman. It is fascinating. Even to me!
As you go through the exhibit you may begin to wonder how my father came to have these relationships. Did he seek them? Did he place himself at the right place at the right time? Did he have "connections"? And then you may ask, "What does it take to be a friend of a President?" Not just one President, but 12! What kind of man is he?
Beliefnet has asked me to give my "inside" perspective on this. I cannot give the relationship details... I don't have any. You will get far more details by going to the exhibit. What I can talk about is what kind of man has those relationships. (I wrote a book about him a few years ago, Legacy of Faith, Things I Learned from My Father that talks more about the man I know him to be.)
The reason I have few, if any, details is that my father kept those relationships and conversations in strictest confidence. That is why the Presidents trusted him. They knew what they said to him went into a "black hole". They felt safe with him. He has written some details in his memoir, Just As I Am, as he let time provide the privacy and perspective that granted some objectivity and grace. He held these relationships as a sacred trust given to him by God. These friendships were not for his own purposes but to walk with these fellow human beings humbly, prayerfully as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
My father is a very intelligent man and thinks strategically however, he knows he is not brilliant in the manner of some but he is a life-long learner and a voracious reader. It is sad that macular degeneration has taken away his ability to read in these last years. But he is a keen observer of things around him and insightful. He is never threatened to be around those more intelligent than he is but enjoys their views and always asks good questions, listening intently to answers.
With all that has surrounded him, the crowds he has attracted, the fame, the popularity, the attention, he has remained a genuinely humble man. What you see is what you get. He is the same in private as he is in public. He never assumes people know who he is or remember him. He once called a friend of my older sister. When this friend answered the phone he said, "This is Billy Graham. Do you remember me?" That was genuine. He sees himself as a farm boy from North Carolina. He is a simple man. If you were to walk into his bedroom at home to find a souvenir you would soon see that there is nothing of monetary value. Surrounding him are photographs of his family, my mother's portrait hangs over the fireplace across from his bed, and some Bibles as well as a few books. He has not accumulated "stuff". His favorite meal is a grilled hotdog and baked beans! He is a simple man.