WASHINGTON - President Bush and former President Bill Clinton will be joining world renowned evangelist Billy Graham at the dedication ceremony for a brand new multi-million dollar evangelistic library later this month.
The 1,500 guests attending the May 31 dedication ceremony for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., include Graham’s family, friends, long-time supporters, and dignitaries. Bush will reportedly deliver the keynote address while Clinton, who says Graham won his hearts decades ago, will also take part in the ceremony.
“[Billy Graham] is about the only person I know who I’ve never seen fail to live his faith,” said Clinton nearly two years ago when he stepped into the pulpit where Graham was leading his last official evangelistic crusade.
After Graham hosted a crusade that the former president attended as a little boy and refused to speak to a segregated audience, “I’ve loved him ever since,” recalled Clinton, who formed a close relationship with Graham during his presidency.
Bush, meanwhile, has attributed his path to recommitment as having begun after one of Graham's regular summer visits to the Bush family vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, nearly three decades ago.
"It was the beginning of a new walk where I would recommit my heart to Jesus Christ," Bush later recalled.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) hopes the new $27-million library will further serve and expand the organization’s ministry to deliver the simple and unchanging message of God's love and forgiveness to people around the world.
Located on the grounds of the BGEA’s international headquarters, the Billy Graham Library will house six exhibits, four galleries, two theatres, and a repository of Graham's personal papers, including his correspondence and sermon manuscripts.
More than a memorial, the dairy barn-shaped library – modeled after Graham’s early childhood home in Charlotte – is designed to inspire visitors and serve as an extension of the ongoing outreach of the BGEA.
The estimated 200,000 annual visitors to the Billy Graham Library will be able to take a self-guided 90-minute tour that includes multimedia displays, rare film footage, and more than 350 photographs recognizing the 60-year legacy of the world renowned evangelist who has preached to more than 210 million people across six continents.
Showcased in the library tour will be some of Graham’s historic evangelistic events; his innovative use of radio, television, and films to reach out to millions of people around the world; meetings with presidents and world leaders; his work for racial equality and religious freedom; and a glimpse into his personal life.
Visitors will also be able to learn more about the work of the BGEA around the world today.
The state-of-the-art Billy Graham Library also includes a restaurant, bookstore, and a tour of the original Graham family home place where Billy Graham lived as a teenager.
The Billy Graham Library is expected to open to the public June 5. Admission will be free.
Herald Correspondent Maria Mackay in London contributed to this report.