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'I hope they'll say that he was faithful'

The Rev. Billy Graham talks with NBC's Katie Couric about his final crusade in the U.S., his legacy and the difficulties of growing old.
/ Source: TODAY

Starting Friday night, Billy Graham will hold his eighth crusade in the New York area, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. It will be his final crusade in the United States; he is considering an invitation to hold one in London in the fall. Katie Couric sat down and talked to the 86-year-old reverend about his work, his life and health, politics, and his legacy.

Katie Couric: So, first of all, of course, everyone wants to know — I know you're 86 years old.  How are you feeling?

Rev. Billy Graham: I feel 86.

Couric: Is that a young 86 or an old 86?

Graham: I have the problems of, I must confess, old age.  You know, when I turned 80, my life took an upside-down turn.  I fell and broke my pelvic bone in three places.  So, I'm still sort of an invalid now.

Couric: Growing old is not for wimps, is it Billy Graham?

Graham: Well, it's a different time of life but I've enjoyed it.  It's wonderful.  I have some wonderful people helping me.  And my wife is an invalid.  I look into her eyes and try to tell her through my eyes that I love her and she does the same to me.  And there's not a day goes by that we don't have a wonderful time together.

Couric: At the same time, it must be frustrating for a man, such as yourself, who is so vibrant and robust and tall and strapping ...

Graham: That's right.

Couric: ... to deal with some of these things. How do you manage to keep going?  And to have a positive outlook?

Graham: I think it's the power to live.  I can barely walk, but it's a privilege to be able to move at all.  And I'm thankful to the Lord for the strength.  And to preach the gospel.  That's the reason I'm in New York.

Couric: What will be the message of this crusade?

Graham: The love of God. The fact that he loves all of us, is willing to forgive all of us.  But only through Christ.

Couric: You first came to New York back in 1957.  And you were quite trepidatious because you talked about in this, many would say, intensely secular city, how challenging it was for an evangelical preacher such as yourself.  Do you think New York City has changed in those 48 years?

Graham: It has changed to the extent that the Evangelicals here have grown. There's about a thousand churches now.  If you'd have said Evangelical in 1957, most people wouldn't know what you were talking about.  And then, they'd be against it. 

Couric: In fact, the number of Evangelical Christians in this country has grown dramatically.

Graham: That's right.

Couric: Why, in your view?

Graham: I think that the people are searching for, especially after 9/11, they're searching for purpose and meaning in their lives.  And they also want to be forgiven.  Everybody knows they're sinners.  And the Bible says "We're all sinners."  And we want forgiveness.

Couric: Do you worry about the current mix of Evangelical Christian doctrine and politics? About preachers who are suggesting to their congregations that they should vote a certain way.  Does any of this concern you, Rev. Graham?

Graham: No, they've always done that.  You can go back to the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation, things like that.  They've talked politics for centuries.  And I stay as far away as I can.

Couric: Why?

Graham: I think that if I would talk on a political subject, if I talk about it, it would divide the audience on that issue. That's not my issue. My issue is Christ. 

Couric: I read, though, that you're a Democrat.  Is that true?

Graham: Yes.  I am.

Couric: Do you think people would be surprised to learn that?  Because generally, in this day and age, Evangelical Christians are closely associated with the Republican Party.

Graham: Well, I don't know that.  I've never found out who they're associated with.  Locally, I'll vote one way and nationally, maybe another.

Couric: Now that you're 86 years old, and really in the twilight of life, sadly ...

Graham: The last period of my life.

Couric: Do you think about death a lot?

Graham: Absolutely.  I'm looking forward to it. And I hope at my death I'll say some things that could bless people.

Couric: What do you hope people will say about you?

Graham: Well, I hope they'll say that he was faithful.  That he was faithful to the message all through his life.  He didn't depart.  He didn't veer.  And I'm thankful that I have the help of the Holy Spirit to do that.

Couric: Billy Graham, always wonderful to see you.

Graham: Thank you, and it's a privilege to be here.