69: Bill O’Reilly

69: Bill O’Reilly

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 69 •
BILL O’REILLY

Bestselling author, commentator and host of Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor

I’ve been aware of the Reverend Billy Graham and his work almost all my life. When I was a little kid my parents would watch him on television when he was preaching at his crusades. Then we saw him with Bob Hope and then again when he was engaged in other church activities. When I was older I noticed that he was very often with U.S. Presidents.

He came across to me as a very decent man. Although I’m a Roman Catholic, and he is a Protestant preacher, I just thought the message was very simple. He seemed to be a guy who loved his country and just wanted people to practice the basic tenets of the Christian religion, such as loving your neighbor as yourself. I admired him for that simple message.

When you are brought up in a religious home like I was, and go to Catholic school, you learn certain things — a basic philosophy about how you should act, what behaviors you should exhibit. Then later, when you notice that somebody is on the same wavelength as you are and puts things in terms that are very easy to understand, you have a positive feeling toward that person. That was how I felt about Billy Graham.

My upbringing in suburban New York City was very different from Reverend Graham’s. We came from two very different parts of the United States. But I did admire the fact that he was trying to do good, and had the respect of so many U.S. Presidents.

I always noticed that he wasn’t a negative guy. Some of the preachers can get a little negative, but he was basically trying to convince people that the kinder you are, the better. He just wanted people to understand that. As for me, I’m a simple guy. I like simple messages. I like consistency. I like very clear-cut topics of discussion, and he provided that.

Billy Graham’s son Franklin told me one time when he was on The O’Reilly Factor that his father watched my program every night. I was surprised. “Why does he take the time to do that?” I asked. And Franklin Graham replied, “He likes the simplicity of the message.” So what I admired about the Reverend Graham, he apparently liked about my show.

I can’t say that I followed or participated in all his crusades, but it was obvious that people trusted him both personally and in the message he was delivering. That sense of trust is a very special thing. Being a commentator on political and social affairs, I have noticed that in the higher echelons of power, people only gravitate to those whom they trust, so it was apparent that all of those U.S. Presidents who confided in Billy Graham trusted him. Maybe some of them had their own political motives for forming a relationship with him. Perhaps they wanted to be seen with him because he had a big constituency in the country and they thought this might give them some political advantage. Who knows what their reasons were? But they certainly trusted him, and I think that for the most part there was something much more than political calculation at work. There must have been something special, even unique about the Reverend Graham and the fellowship he offered that made these U.S. Presidents go out of their way to be with him, to call him for advice, to be seen with him and photographed with him.

Given the fact that these powerful men would take the time to seek his counsel, I think that over his lifetime he has had just as much influence in the world through such private, one-on-one meetings as he did in the public sphere, preaching to large audiences.

There aren’t too many people who rise to that level of acceptance in the corridors of power, especially the highest political office in the land, over such a long period of time, in so many different situations. In fact, I can’t think of anyone who had more access to so many people in powerful positions in so many administrations as Billy Graham did. There had to be a reason, and I think it lies in his decency, his goodness, his simplicity. These are very transparent virtues. They cannot be faked, and by all accounts Billy Graham has them in full measure.

All these things register with me as someone who observes and watches and tries to be fair in evaluating Americans and how they are contributing to their country. Billy Graham’s contribution has been a great one indeed. We are all in his debt, and the simple virtues he preaches never go out of fashion.

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