Billy Graham described Ronald Reagan as “one of the most winsome men I have ever known.” Their friendship began long before Reagan’s political career, when he was still a film star in Hollywood. As their friendship grew over the next couple of decades, Billy “not only admired his quick wit and warm personality, but [he] also came to respect his keen insight and tough-minded approach to broad political issues.”
When Reagan was inaugurated as President on January 20, 1981, Billy joined him on the platform while he was sworn in. Throughout Reagan’s term of office, Billy and Ruth were invited to many state dinners, including one for Queen Elizabeth II, and another for Chinese president Li Xiannian.
In Just As I Am, Billy remembers multiple conversations with the Reagans regarding faith. “They were both interested in understanding more about the Scriptures, especially Ron. He often asked me questions about the biblical view on important topics. Abortion was one such issue he wrestled with. I always stressed the Bible’s teachings on the sacredness of human life, both of the unborn and of the born. We talked about other current issues, but always in terms of principles, not what specific policies or programs should be adopted or scrapped.”
On February 23, 1983, Ronald Reagan presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Billy Graham, the highest honor a civilian citizen of the United States can receive. Of the honor, Billy said, “I felt unworthy of the honor, and still do. But whatever else it means, it will always remind me of the generosity and friendship of a remarkable man and a warm and enduring friend, Ronald Wilson Reagan.”
The Billy Graham Library is featuring an exhibit Pastor to Presidents highlighting Billy Graham’s friendships with our nation’s Executive Office. The exhibit runs through December 31, 2020. For more information on the exhibit, visit www.billygrahamlibrary.org.