Former U.S. President Bill Clinton holds Billy Graham's hand as he speaks during Graham's Crusade at Flushing Meadows Corona Park June 25, 2005 in the Queens borough of New York. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)
The former president arrived just after 11 a.m. After spending roughly 45 minutes inside the Graham childhood home with the Rev. Franklin Graham and walking the grounds of the library, Clinton addressed the media, reflecting on “America’s Pastor.”
"I'm glad to be back in this magnificent spot for the first time since I was here for the dedication. And I'm just one of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of people, who in their own way will find some way to say thank you and goodbye to Billy Graham," Clinton said.
Graham counseled Clinton and was even criticized by some conservative evangelicals for praying at Clinton’s inauguration because the former president is a supporter of abortion rights.
Graham was also criticized for publicly forgiving Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and praising Hillary Clinton for forgiving her husband.
The former president went on to tell a story about how excited he was when, at 11 years old, his Sunday school teacher took him to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas to see Graham’s crusade.
Clinton said many people were pressuring Graham to preach to whites only, but the reverend refused.
"He said that all people deserved to hear God's word and that if he couldn't preach to everyone, he wouldn't preach at all," Clinton said.
“I have read many things that contemporary people have said, some laudatory, some not so laudatory,” Clinton said. “I read a story today saying if you’re a preacher you have to be careful about getting too close to those politicians. I agree with that -- but don’t forget, those of us that are Christians believe in a god of second chances, and politicians need those more than anybody else. So you got to cut him a little slack for trying to give a willing ear and an open heart without regard to his political preferences.”
Clinton ended his remarks by saying, “I think he was a profoundly good man who conveyed a simple belief that we can claim kinship with God by asking, and that while we all believe that it's faith plus nothing, he wasn't faith plus nothing. He lived. he showed his faith by his works and by his life.”
“For me, every time I think about him, I'll be 11 again, having no idea how my life would turn out, grateful that in that moment, when it would be easier not to do it, he actually lived his faith,” Clinton said. “Thank you. I’m glad to be here.”