Barack Obama has chosen not to participate in any of the events honoring evangelist Billy Graham this week, but he did carve out time to make a surprise visit to a community meeting in Chicago to promote the building of his presidential library.
Graham met, and in some cases became close friends, with every president from Harry Truman to Obama during his tenure as America’s Pastor, which stretched from the 1940s to the 21st century. He in fact also earned the moniker of Pastor to the Presidents.
Trump was not able to meet with Graham as president, but was on hand to help celebrate the preacher’s 95th birthday in 2013.
Obama met Graham in the spring of 2010 at the evangelist’s home in Montreat, North Carolina.
As reported by The Western Journal, George W. Bush and his wife Laura traveled to Graham’s library in Charlotte on Monday to pay their respects to the late Christian leader.
Bush also came bearing greetings from his 93-year-old father George H.W. Bush — the nation’s 41st president — saying, “I know he wished he could come too, but he’s not moving around much these days, but his spirit and heart is here.”
Former President Jimmy Carter, also 93 and has experienced health challenges, sent his regrets.
Former President Bill Clinton, like George W. Bush, made the journey to Charlotte on Tuesday. Clinton told reporters that he first heard Graham preach in Little Rock, Arkansas, when the future politician was an 11-year-old boy. He said meeting him later as an adult was one of the most memorable events of his life.
Clinton noted that Graham demanded that his 1959 Little Rock crusade be integrated and threatened to pull out when city leaders resisted. The pastor also became a strong supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for racial equality.
“The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross,” Graham said.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Obama “is not planning to attend memorial services for the late evangelist Rev. Billy Graham this week.”
While the Washington, D.C., resident did not take the time to make the short flight to Charlotte or even the drive to the U.S. Capitol, where Graham’s body lies in repose, Obama did travel to Chicago on Tuesday to push for approval of building his presidential library on the city’s South Side.
He participated in a town hall-style meeting to allay local residents’ concerns that his presidential center will cause housing costs to increase and be too disruptive to their neighborhood.
“A lot of times, people get nervous about gentrification and understandably so,” Obama said. “It is not my experience … that the big problem on the South Side has been too much development, too much economic activity, too many people being displaced because all these folks from Lincoln Park are filling into the South Side. That’s not what’s happening.
Obama tweeted about the event later Tuesday night, saying it reminded him of his days as a community organizer in the 1990s.
While Obama does not plan to attend any of the events honoring Graham, he did post a tweet regarding one of the 20th Century’s most influential people.
The 44th president wrote: “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
On Wednesday, President Trump spoke at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda lauding the life Graham led as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The president also plans to travel to Charlotte to attend Graham’s funeral service on Friday.
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