Video: At 86, Graham still fiery

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 6/24/2005 8:58:24 PM ET 2005-06-25T00:58:24

NEW YORK — The Rev. Billy Graham will be 87 later this year. He has prostate cancer and uses a walker to get around after a broken hip and pelvis. But the old Billy Graham is still there. As we found out when we sat down with him.

Brian Williams:  Is this tour farewell for you, Dr. Graham?

Rev. Billy Graham:  I think so. In November I'll be 87 years old. And I don't think it's fair to the people to have a broken-down old man up there.

Williams:  We watched one of the towering figures of the last century, Pope John Paul II, pass away. He clearly thought that public suffering was part of the journey. Is that your contention as well?

Rev. Graham:  You know, I haven't really thought that through as far as I'm concerned. But it certainly was true for him. And I think it blessed the whole world because almost everybody's suffering from something. And I think he taught them a lesson. He taught us how to suffer and he taught us how to die.

Williams:  What questions do you expect to have answered at the time of your death?

Rev. Graham:  The mystery of death. I think there's a mystery to it. And I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward with great anticipation to going to heaven.

Williams:  To your own death?

Rev. Graham:  To my own death. Yes.

Williams:  If this is farewell, Dr. Graham, what are your worries about the world you leave behind?

Rev. Graham:  The world we leave behind is about like the world was when I came into the world, just at the end of World War I. And the world was at each other's throats at that time. And thousands were being killed. Today we don't have a world war. But maybe we do in terrorism. But man's heart is the same. I don't see any difference in people's hearts. 

Williams:  It's been said that you're the last of a breed because you've been fiercely non-political. Your ministry has not been about teaching one political side or the other.

Rev. Graham:  When people ask me what party do I belong to, they're surprised when I answer. Because my father and mother were reared in North Carolina by my grandparents, and they all are Democrats.

Williams:  It's been said we're red and blue and that we're torn apart. We can't come together. Do you believe in that? Do you agree with that?

Rev. Graham:  No. No. I believe we can come together. And I believe there is a coming together in a sense. 

Williams:  Is there a moment with a U.S. president that stands out the most?

Rev. Graham:  I remember one incident. I had spoken at a breakfast and John Kennedy was sitting beside me. And he whispered to me, he said, "Will you ride back to the White House with me?" And I said, "You know, Mr. President," I said, "I'm sick."  I said, "I have a fever and I don't think I ought to ride in the car with you and go to the White House. Let me come over some other time." And he smiled and he said, "OK." And I have often wondered what did he want to talk about? And I never got that opportunity because he died a few months later. And that, to me, is a mystery that I would like cleared up when I get to heaven.         

Graham calls this the last crusade, but he's mulling an invitation to London in the fall, for a rally and what would be his 13th meeting with the Queen.

How sharp is Billy Graham? Well, right now you could say one lion is reading about two others. He tells me he's halfway through the book "Franklin and Winston," by Jon Meacham. In fact, he says he can't put it down.

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