Two of my great interests in life include a preacher/evangelist by the name of Billy Graham and the Presidents of the United States. Put them together, and you get an outstanding book by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy titled, "The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House."
Billy Graham has been considered the nation's pastor for decades now and I have always been interested in his relationship to each President. Graham has known, ministered, and influenced every President since Harry Trueman. Trueman was the only President that ever had an unfavorable opinion of Graham. Current President Barack Obama will be the first President not to have Billy Graham to lean on as Graham has chosen not to get involved due to his health. Every President between Trueman and George W. Bush have leaned on Graham during times of trouble and need.
The story of Graham and the Presidents is certainly interested. Graham had a life-long vow to never mix his ministry with politics. Rather, he was interested in ministering to the politician. As he has said many times before, the Presidents are in as much need for spiritual guidance as any other person. And Graham has been there for each of them. And Gibbs and Duffy chronicle that relationship and ministry with America's most powerful men.
Gibbs and Duffy trace Graham's history with each President prior to their election, during their administration, and even after. They chronicle the high points and the low which makes for fascinating reading.
Some of my favorite parts include Graham's heavy influence on Eisenhower to run, which he did. Graham was there for the entire 8 years of his presidency. Also, just prior to the Kennedy assassination, Graham had tried to reach Kennedy (of which he was probably least closest to compared to the other presidents) warning him that tragedy awaited him in Texas. Sadly, Graham could not get through.
Also, perhaps the most controversial parts of Graham's ministry regarded his close relationship to President Richard Nixon. Every America knows about what happened with Watergate and the cover up that followed. Most, perhaps, do not know Graham's relationship with Nixon and some of the things he said and were recorded by the Whitehouse wire tap. The fall out of Nixon and Watergate caused Graham much grief, shock, and danger to his own ministry. Graham was very close to Nixon, considered him a dear friend, and got caught up in the whole politician scene. Graham's approach to the Presidents would never be the same in the decades that followed.
I have also been intrigued into Graham's relationship and influence on President George W. Bush. Bush gives Graham credit for his conversion to Christianity and for changing his life. In any good biography on our most recent former President would include the account of W. and Graham walking on the beach discussing their faith. And the rest, they say, is history.
But the most disappointing part of this book was how quick the book ends, especially regarding President George W. Bush. It isn't that the book has no conclusion, it does (and a good one at that), but that the entire story of Graham's influence and involvement in the W. Bush Whitehouse was not told.
For example, I believe that one of the great hallmarks of Graham's incredible legacy and life came on September 14, 2001 whenever he spoke to the nation. At that point, there was no doubt that he was the nations pastor. His words were appropriate and comforting to a hurting nation. At that moment, all that Graham had experienced, learned, and done came to a climax; at least in my life.
I am, therefore, disappointed that this was left out of the book. To make things worse, the concluding chapter that wrapped up the entire book makes mention of the Iraq War and nothing regarding his role as the nations pastor following the events of September 11, 2001. But with that said, this stands as an excellent read for anyone interested in Billy Graham, the Presidents, and American history in general. It provides new insight into the lives, thought, and beliefs of our nations leaders and how one man has been there through it all. I highly recommend this book.
Here is a video of the authors discussing the book: