Sowing Seeds into the Hearts of Our Presidents

By   •   February 18, 2011

Michael Duffy, a 26-year veteran with Time magazine, is currently the Washington Bureau Chief and Assistant Editor. In his years with the magazine, he has covered the Pentagon, White House, national politics, Congress and national security. But among all the topics he has covered over the years, few have fascinated him like Billy Graham’s relationships with U.S. presidents.

Billy Graham and U.S. Presidents in Pictures

In 2007, he, along with Nancy Gibb, released The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. The book chronicles details of Graham’s relationship from Harry Truman through George W. Bush.

President Barack Obama has also visited Billy Graham at his North Carolina home. 

Early Friendships

“There really is no one else in history who knew—much less ministered to—11 consecutive presidents. He worked hard at his friendships with them,” explains Duffy. “What really strikes me is that Billy Graham knew most of the presidents before they were in the Oval Office.”

One example of these pre-presidential friendships is the one he shared with Ronald Reagan. Graham first met Reagan in the early 1950s, around the time that he and his wife Nancy married. Their paths crossed again in the mid 1960s when Reagan served as the Governor of California. This time, the interaction was of a more serious spiritual nature. It is during that time that Ronald Reagan is believed to have tremendously grown in his faith.

Before they were presidents: Involvement in BGEA

Duffy tells the story of 12-year-old Bill Clinton from a small town in Arkansas who regularly gave some allowance money to BGEA. It was this same boy who, around that time, begged his Sunday school teacher to take him to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock to attend a Billy Graham Crusade in the late 1950s. This happened to be an occasion where Graham agreed to come on one condition: that the crowds be desegregated.

A few years later, as a young man, Clinton took his then-girlfriend, Hilary Rodham, to a Crusade in Oakland, Calif., for a date. He wanted her to hear the preacher he so loved as a boy.

In addition to Clinton, Jimmy Carter also contributed—through service—to BGEA prior to his years in the Oval Office. Carter began reading Graham’s books and listening to his sermons long before he was elected. In 1962, he was even involved in the organization of a Crusade in Southwest Georgia.

Spiritual Mentoring

Perhaps the most widely known of the spiritual mentoring relationships between Billy Graham and the presidents is the one with George W. Bush. When Bush was 40 years old, Graham visited with the family at their vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Graham spent some time answering questions about spiritual matters with the family, and spent some one-on-one time with the younger Bush. This is said to have been one of the most pivotal times in the spiritual life of George W. Bush.

This is but one example of Billy Graham’s investment into the lives of our presidents, as he sensed the pressures of the office and had compassion for these men.

“These meetings were far more than photo opportunities. In fact, many of the most important meetings between Billy Graham and the presidents were private—the ones that mattered are the ones that we didn’t know about,” said Duffy. “They knew Billy Graham was someone they could trust. His friendship was a safe place for them—almost sacred. They knew that their conversations would remain private.”

What spoke volumes to these presidents—along with those watching—is Graham’s friendship with the presidents, regardless of their political positions.

“He knew these presidents needed support, regardless of politics. Everyone has a great capacity for sin, but when you are the president of the United States, you have so much power, and that means you have more reasons to be driven to you knees.”

In Graham’s friendships with the presidents, the love of Christ was his motivation as he loved them and ministered to them through war, scandal and hardship. May we as a nation bear the fruit of the Gospel seeds sown into the hearts of our presidents by Billy Graham.

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  1. evelyn says:

    Oh what a wonderful man of God.He has led me to the pearly gates and I am so honored to have know him in my lifetime. Thank you Mr. Graham.

  2. annette says:

    God bless Billy for his faithfulness to the Lord

  3. Jean says:

    God bless you and your family, Mr. Graham. I first heard you at the 1957 crusade in NYC, and it was there that I really more fully understood the message of salvation. I continue to enjoy The Billy Graham Classics on TBN each week. You are a mighty man of God. Thank you for being God's faithful servant all these years!

  4. Jane says:

    Everyone of his sermons I have seen and his writings have always given me hope. All of the Graham family is an inspiration to all the worlds. Mr. Graham always told it how it should be and would not hold back anything no matter how many toes he stepped on and that is the kind of preaching we need today in order for God to help all of us. Amen.

  5. kingsley says:

    Billy Graham is a model of Christianity, a hero and mentor.I began liking him as a child probably because my dad liked him too.

  6. John says:

    Billy Graham and the BGEA ministry legacy has inspired anyone that they have come in contact with. The relationships that Rev. Graham shared with our Presidents was a form of inspiration to the nation. In my lifetime of 59 years on this earth, I know of no one who has had a greater impact on people Worldwide than Rev. Billy Graham, Franklin Graham and now the younger Graham. Millions worldwide have been saved because of the work of BGEA.

  7. mike says:

    I thank God for Billy Graham. I am tremendously inspired by his sermons entitled 'Billy Graham classsics' which are aired in a local TV station. What a mighty man of God. Though many miles away in Africa I feel well connected to his great preaching. His immense passion for God has left an indelible mark on me. Kindly let me me know how I can subscribe to your website so I may receive information on how I can strengthen my relation with GOD. God bless you tremendously. (for spiritUal growth answers) (to sign up for email)

  8. Lisa says:

    What a great man of God!

  9. Marvin says:

    What a fantastic witness for the Lord! Thanks be to God for Billy's testimony to all these leaders of our country!

  10. Karen says:

    Mr. Graham is a very nice Christian man and I know he has influenced the whole world that Jesus Christ is Lord above all and I hope all of the President do take his advice to the fullest. I wish Mr. Graham was our President and Mr. Graham has made a big difference in my life too. I am a Christian and I am proud to let the whole world know too.