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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024

Duffy discusses ‘Graham in the White House’

Michael Duffy Lecture
Guests mingle and discuss following Michael Duffy’s guest lecture at the Public Life/Personal Faith colloquium on the morning of Friday Feb. 7.
Photo credit: Avery Stefan

Michael Duffy, best-selling author and Deputy Managing Editor of TIME Magazine, was featured at Perkins School of Theology’s annual Public Life/Personal Faith Lecture and Colloquium at SMU on Friday morning to discuss his New York Times Bestseller and the role of the infamous preacher Billy Graham in the White House.

The lecture started off with an introduction by the Dean of Perkins School of Theology Bill Lawrence, who designated the colloquium as a fundraising event to raise awareness and funds for various faith-based organizations, namely the Center for Religious Leadership.

There were approximately 20 students and faculty members in attendance, many of whom study or are involved with the theology department at SMU. Each audience member received a free copy of Duffy’s New York Times Bestseller “The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House,” which turned out to be the primary focus of the lecture.

Duffy wrote “The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House,” first published in 2007, with his colleague at “TIME Magazine,” Nancy Gibbs, to examine the relationships rooted in faith between the infamous preacher Billy Graham and the 11 different presidents he interacted with.

“What about Graham made these partnerships possible? What did each leader need from him? How do we understand the role of faith in politics?” were the types of questions Duffy began to ask that sparked the idea for his book.

Duffy explained that the book does not examine the political aspects of the story, as many journalistic novels would, but rather reveals the “pain, redemption, regret, help and loneliness that all of the men who sat in the Oval Office experienced.”

According to Duffy, the protagonist Graham was a source of comfort and support to America’s Leaders from Truman on, and acted as a mediator between past presidents.

“Graham was there to ‘midwife’ the relationships,” Duffy said, referring to the Graham’s function in the presidents’ personal lives.

Emily Miller-Todd, a graduate student at the Perkins School of Theology said that she was surprised to learn about the role that faith has played for various presidents, because she had assumed it was not a very prevalent aspect of their presidencies.

“It is something that would matter to me personally in voting for a president because it is a position of extreme power,” Miller-Todd explained. “I would like to think there’s some humility that accompanies that power, so I would like to know that a president has some other authority outside of himself.”

Duffy is also the author of “The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity,” which spent 30 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. This book is also intrinsically related to Graham as it examines the relationships formed between presidents, encouraged by the preacher.

“Human pieces are the ones that matter most,” Duffy said. “We tried to stay focused on that as we walked through two 60 year inquiries; one about faith, the other about partnership.”

This year’s Public Life/Personal Faith event was sponsored for the second year in a row by the Bolin family. Pat Bolin, chairman and chief executive officer at EagleCorp and Eagle Oil & Gas Co. in Dallas, was the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the SMU Cox School of Business.

Michael Duffey with co-author Nancy Gibbs. (Courtesy of Simon and Schuster)
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