Reverend Billy Graham

Eulogy for Richard M. Nixon

27 April 1994, Yorba Linda, California

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

The great king of ancient Israel, David, said on the death of Saul, who had been a bitter enemy: "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel."1

Today, we remember that with the death of Richard Nixon, a great man has fallen. We have heard that the world has lost a great citizen, and America has lost a great statesman. And those of us that knew him have lost a personal friend.

You know, few events touch the heart of every American as profoundly as the death of a President -- for the President is our leader. And every American feels that he knows him in a very special way because he hears his voice so often, sees him on television, reads about him in the press. And so we all mourn his loss and feel that our world is a bit lonelier without him.

But to you who were close to him, this grief is an added pain because you wept when he wept and you laughed when he laughed. And here amidst these familiar surroundings under these California skies, his earthly life has come full circle. It was here that Richard Nixon was born and reared, and his life was molded. But the Scripture teaches that there's a time to be born, a time to live, and a time to die. Richard Nixon's time to die came last Friday evening.

Since 1990, he had had a brilliant, young cardiologist as his doctor by the name of Jeffrey Borer. And last Tuesday, the day after the President suffered his stroke, the doctor came by the New York Hospital to examine him. He was partially paralyzed and could not speak, but he was still alert. And as the doctor talked, the President reached out and grabbed his arm with an unusual strength. Then, as the doctor turned to leave, something made him turn around and look back to the bed where Richard Nixon was lying. And just at that moment, the President waved and gave his trademark thumbs up signal and smiled. That took determination, which he had and we've heard about already today. It was an example of fighting on and never giving up that Jeffrey Borer will never forget.

President Nixon's great voice, his warm, intelligent eyes, his generous smile are missed as we gather here again just 10 months after we were here when his beloved Pat went to heaven.

A few months ago, he was asked in a television interview, "How would you like to be remembered?" He thought a moment and then he replied: "I'd like to be remembered as one who made a difference." And he did make a difference in our world as we've heard so eloquently this afternoon.

There's an old saying that a tree is best measured when it's laid down. The great events of his life have already been widely recounted by the news media this week. And it's not my purpose to restate what others have already said so eloquently, including those who have spoken so movingly here today.

I think most of us have been staggered by the many things that he accomplished during his life. His public service kept him at the center of the events that have shaped our destiny. This week, Time magazine says that by sheer endurance, he rebuilt his standing as the most important figure of the post-war era.

During his years of public service, Richard Nixon was on center stage during our generation. He had a great respect for the Office of the President. I never heard him one time criticize a living President who was in the office at that time. There's an old Indian saying: Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes.

However, there was another side to him that's more personal, more intimate, more human than we've heard referred to several times today -- and that was his family, his neighbors, and his friends who are gathered here today. It was a side that many people did not see, for Richard Nixon was a private person in some ways. And then, some people thought there was a shyness about him. Others sometimes found him hard to get to know.

There were hundreds of little things he did for ordinary people that no one would have ever known about. He always had a compassion for people who were hurting. No one could ever understand Richard Nixon unless they understood the family from which he came, the Quaker church that he attended, Whittier College where he studied, and the land and the people in this area where you are sitting today. His roots were deep in this part of California.

But there's still another side to him -- that was his strong and growing faith in God. He never wore his religious faith on his sleeves, but was rather reticent to speak about it in public. He could have had more reasons than most for not attending church while he occupied the White House, when there was so many demonstrations and threats going on. But he wanted to set an example. And he decided to have services most Sundays in the White House -- a small congregation, a clergyman from various denominations.

And I remember before one of the first services that President Nixon had at the White House, Ruth and I and two of our friends were in the private quarters with him. I'll never forget the President sitting down on the spur of the moment at an old, battered Steinway that they had there, playing the old hymn:

He will hold me fast;

For my Savior loves me so,

He will hold me fast.

John Donne said that there's a democracy about death. It comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes. And I think today, everyone of us ought to be thinking about our own time to die, because we, too, are going to die. And we're going to have to face Almighty God with the life that we lived here.

There comes a time when we have to realize that life is short, and in the end, the only thing that really counts is not how others see us here, but how God sees us and what the Record Books of heaven have to say. For the Bible who -- For the believer who has been to the cross, death is no frightful leap into the dark, but is an entrance into a glorious new life.

I believe that Richard Nixon right now is with Pat again, because I believe that in heaven we will know each other. The Bible says, "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." There's a gaining about death. For the believer, the brutal fact of death has been conquered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the person who has turned from sin and has received Christ as Lord and Saviour, death is not the end. For the believer, there's hope beyond the grave. There's a future life.

Yesterday, as his body was escorted to the plane for its final journey here, the band played and the familiar strains of a hymn he especially loved -- maybe the best -- for him, the hymn that he loved the most were played:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
I [have] already come;
'Tis grace [hath] brought me safe thus far,
[And] grace will [lead] me home.

That hymn was written 200 years ago by an Englishman named John Newton. He was a cruel man, a captain of a slave ship. But one night in a fierce storm, he turned to God and committed his life to Christ. Newton not only became a preacher of the gospel, but he influenced William Wilberforce and others in Parliament to bring an end to the slave trade. John Newton came to know the miracle of God's amazing grace, and it changed his life. And it changed our lives as well.

And so, we say farewell to Richard Nixon today with hope in our hearts, for our hope is in the eternal promises of Almighty God.

Years ago, Winston Churchill planned his own funeral. And he did so with the hope of the resurrection and eternal life which he firmly believed in. And he instructed after the benediction that a bugler positioned high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral would play Taps, the universal signal that says the day is over.

But then came a very dramatic moment as Churchill had instructed. Another bugler was placed on the other side of the massive dome, and he played the notes of Reveille, the universal signal that a new day has dawned, and it is time to arise. That was Churchill's testimony that at the end of history, the last note will not be Taps, it'll be Reveille. There is hope beyond the grave because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by his death and resurrection.

Richard Nixon had that hope and today that can be our hope as well. And to the children and the grandchildren, I would say to you: You have that hope within your hearts. I know -- I had the privilege of knowing them when they were little girls. And I've seen them as they've come to know Christ and to know God in their lives. And we look forward to seeing Dick and Pat someday in the future again.

Shall we pray:

God of all comfort, in the silence of this hour, we ask Thee  to sustain this family and these loved ones and to deliver them from loneliness, despair, and doubt. Fill their desolate hearts with thy peace. And may this be a moment of rededication to Thee.

Our Father, those of us who have been left behind have the solemn responsibilities of life. Help us to live according to thy will, and for thy glory, so that we will be prepared to meet thee.

We offer our prayer in the name of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 2 Samuel 3:38 (KJV)

2 John Newton, Amazing Grace, Olney Hymns, 1779

Original Audio and Video Source: William J. Clinton Presidential Library

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