Meet the Press   |  December 29, 2013

4: Graham’s son talks about family legacy

NBC’s Harry Smith speaks with the Rev. Billy Graham’s son about his father’s health and their family legacy, and the Meet The Press roundtable looks ahead to what we can expect in 2014.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> i'd like to semi-retire, take it a little bit easy, but i believe i've seen enough lives changed that i'm going to continue preaching the gospel as long as i can.

>> that was legendary christian leader billy graham back in 1979 . after a lifetime of preaching the gospel to millions worldwide and serving as pastor to the white house , reverend graham is now fighting for his life at the age of 95. our own correspondent harry smith talks to franklin graham about his father's unwavering faith, his life and his legacy.

>> just last month, billy graham delivered what might well be his last sermon.

>> he said, i want to preach one more time. he said that to me several times.

>> reporter: no longer capable of standing at a pulpit, franklin graham told us his father's message was recorded this past summer, ask the find the film " "the cross" was finished just in time. since then, billy graham has been hospitalized and he is not well.

>> he's very weak. his vitals are good, blood pressure, heart rate, these things are good. and he's eating a little bit, but he's just extremely weak. so i've asked people to pray. people who are watching this program, i hope they would pray for him. he would appreciate it very much.

>> reporter: billy graham had a gift. when he spoke, it seemed the world listened. he preached to millions and they came forward.

>> reporter: g

>> god empowered him, and my father, when he stood to preach, he wasn't preaching his message, he was preaching god's message.

>> reporter: while graham preached to packed stadiums, he was also a pastor in the white house , no matter the party of the president.

>> he believes god put him in that place so he could be a spiritual counselor and adviser, and every one of the presidents always at some point in that relationship would talk to my father about spiritual things.

>> reporter: franklin graham might have become a prodigal son . in the beginning, he was not about his father's business.

>> i saw my father preach in madison square garden , and i was a little embarrassed, i think the first time i heard him preach. that's my father up there, and i kind of slid down in my chair.

>> reporter: young graham was kicked out of his first college. but by 22, he returned to the fold. and while the resemblance to his father is striking, he is his own man. outspoken about islam, questioning president obama 's christianity for which he later apologized.

>> well, i've never really been one to try to be politically correct. i just feel truth is truth, and sometimes i probably offend some people.

>> reporter: with that kind of no-nonsense attitude, franklin graham has run samaritans purse for 20 years, a ministry that helps people when they need it most. graham's call to serve the less fortunate is something he shares with pope francis . and he applauds the pope to a point.

>> he was asked about gays in the church and he said, who am i to judge? would there be a shift for you?

>> god would have to shift, and god doesn't. god's word is the same yesterday and today and a million years from now, that it's sin. to tell somebody that it's okay, i know the consequences of what will happen one day when they have to stand before god. i want to warn people, and i think the pope is right when he says he is not the judge. he is not the judge. god is the judge.

>> reporter: franklin is also the head of the organization his father started and in that role helped his father fulfill his wish for a final sermon.

>> help my father finish well. i feel that's what god wanted me to do is to help him finish well.

>> reporter: and graham told us that sermon received more response than anything his father had done before.

>> and when i told him, he was quiet for a second, then he just said, praise the lord ! and he said it real strong with a loud voice, and he was excited.

>> reporter: from "meet the press," harry smith .

>> thank you, harry. when you think about big, sweeping, historical figures, billy graham -- and we've talked so much and we're going to talk about pope francis and his potential to reach those heights as well.

>> i think pope francis is the biggest thing that happened this year on the world scene. in the way that you think of pope john paul and the impact he had in eastern europe . this pope, not only in his flock, clearly, i'm not catholic, but i stayed up christmas eve just to watch the replay of that mass and to hear the homily. i am so moved by him and the message of caring for the poor and for those who can't care for themselves.

>> and leadership in so much of the world, that he's providing principle and direction is striking.

>> we look at the shadow he cast for years and years in this country, which is what makes the comparisons to the life of pope francis , but billy graham is an endeeri endearing figure.

>> he not only emphasized the poor, he also emphasized peace. some discussion of what peace can mean and what role the united states could play in helping to construct a more durable peace in key regions, i think, is one of the things that ought to be on the agenda.

>> we end the show looking at some of the key dates in 2014 . january 28th , state of the union , deadline to sign up for health care in march, approximate end of the 6-month timetable for iran deal. a lot there.

>> mid-term election. elections have consequences, and so i think a lot of the year will be aimed at that election. one question i have about the campaign leading up to that election, mentioned by franklin graham , the culture wars . we've seen this year huge advance of gay marriage , a suggestion that maybe there could be -- possibly there's a truce in the culture wars ? it will be interesting to see if the truce holds or if war breaks out?

>> and whether hillary clinton will run or not run.

>> i'm going to leave it right there. thank you all very much for spanning the globe with me this morning. i appreciate it very much. that is all for today. i hope you have a very happy and healthy new year in 2014 . we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press."