Billy Graham Library

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Pre-Assignment Speech

Billy Graham: Pastor to Presidents

Pre-Visit Reading: Excerpts from Billy Graham’s sermon on January 20, 1985, at the National Prayer Service before the second inauguration of President Reagan

... We are gathered here today because our nation and its leaders need the help of God. ...

We have a constitution that guarantees to all of us human freedoms, of which religious freedom is foremost. In America, any and all religions have a right to exist and to propagate what they stand for. We enjoy the separation of church and state, and no sectarian religion has ever and, pray God, will ever be imposed upon us. ...

Today we face new challenges that previous generations could never have dreamed of. Some are unparalleled opportunities. Some of these challenges, however, are unparalleled dangers which threaten the continued existence of civilization on this planet. ...

It is possible for us to live in peace with ourselves, our families, in our communities and between nations. Confucius in his Analects gave us the Silver Rule. The Bible gives us the Golden Rule. However stated, it means I will love my neighbor as I love myself. ...

During the next four years, many of you here today will have to make decisions of state, perhaps greater than those made by any of your predecessors. Because of modern technology, you will hold in your hands the destiny not only of America, but the entire world. Christ said, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (cf. Mark 8:36). I believe that that applies to nations as well as individuals, for a nation that loses its spiritual courage will grow old before its time. Even if we gain all our material and social objectives and lose our souls, it would be a disaster.

As you work to lead this nation and our world to new heights of social justice, peace, and economic prosperity, you also have the opportunity to lead the nation to its greatest moral and spiritual heights. This is a tremendous opportunity and an awesome responsibility. Jesus once said, “Unto whom much is given, of him much shall be required” (cf. Luke 12:48). Those who have the greatest power always need the greatest guidance.

In less than two hours, President Reagan and Vice President Bush will place their hands upon a Bible and take their oath of office ... , they will be putting their hands on the book from which we have received our ideas of freedom and justice and our morals and value system. …

On this solemn occasion, as a great nation goes forward under its chosen leaders, may all of us, citizens and leaders alike, go in the strength and the wisdom and the courage which we can only receive from God. Our first president, George Washington, said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” And he was right. This is what has helped make America great. God bless President and Mrs. Reagan and Vice President and Mrs. Bush and all of those in this administration during the next four years.

Pre-Assignment Questions

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Background Information

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Exploring the Library

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Post-Assignment Questions

North Carolina Standard Course of Study

  1. 3H.1-3: Understand how individuals, events, and ideas influenced the history of local and regional communities. Explain key historical events that occurred in the local community and regions over time. Analyze the impact of contributions made by diverse historical figures in local communities and regions over time.