- (Photo: White House/Pete Souza)
President Obama visited Billy Graham for the first time on Sunday when he briefly met the elderly evangelist at his North Carolina home.
Obama, who was on vacation in nearby Asheville, made the short trip to Montreat where the 91-year-old “pastor to presidents” awaited him in his log cabin home.
During their half-hour meeting, the two chatted about a variety of topics over coffee, including their wives, golf and Chicago, according to Graham’s spokesman, Larry Ross.
Graham attended Wheaton College in the Chicago suburb, where he met his late wife, Ruth, and Obama began his political career in the city.
Obama, like his predecessors, shared with Graham how lonely, demanding and humbling the office of president can be, said Ross.
The two concluded by praying for each other and Graham gave the president two Bibles, one for himself and the other for the first lady.
“I am pleased to have had President Obama in my home this afternoon," said Graham, in a statement. "He requested a meeting since he was spending the weekend nearby in Asheville. My son Franklin and I enjoyed a brief visit with the President, followed by a time of prayer together.”
Obama had been wanting to meet Graham for some time, but a busy schedule and other situations delayed the meeting until this past weekend.
The two had planned to meet in-person back in October 2008 while Obama was still on the campaign trail, but Graham’s health prevented the meeting. Obama connected again with Graham last November when he called to wish him a happy birthday.
Obama is the twelfth president that Graham has personally known during his public ministry. But Obama is the first sitting president to visit the Graham home.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama was “extraordinarily gratified that he took the time to meet with him.”
Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, as well as aides and advisers to both men were also present during the meeting. Reporters were kept outside Graham’s home.
Franklin Graham said he spoke briefly to Obama about his recent problem with the army. He was disinvited by the army last week to speak at a Pentagon event for the National Day of Prayer because of disparaging remarks he made about Islam.
The younger Graham voiced his concern to the president about activists trying to remove all religion from the military.
“I wanted to make him aware of that,” Franklin Graham said, according to The Associated Press. “He said he would look into it.”
Franklin Graham also thanked the president for saying he would direct the government to appeal a federal judge’s recent ruling that declared the National Day of Prayer as unconstitutional. Graham is the co-honorary chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
Obama also said he intends to still issue a proclamation on May 6 to recognize the prayer day despite the recent court ruling.