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Obama visits evangelist Bill Graham at his N.C. home

CHARLOTTE, N.C. _ Barack Obama today became the 12th president to meet with Billy Graham, and the first sitting one to visit Graham's mountaintop home in Montreat, N.C.

In a meeting that lasted 30 to 35 minutes, the president and the 91-year-old preacher prayed for each other, talked about Chicago _ a city that helped launch both their careers _ and took a tour of Graham's homestead, which was designed by his late wife, Ruth. Graham gave Obama two Bibles, one for him, one for First Lady Michelle Obama.

"Daddy reminisced a little bit about the first time he met a president, Truman," reported Graham's son, Franklin, who also attended the get-together. "My father told the president that he stays out of politics (now). And the president said, 'I wish I could.' "

Obama confided, like other presidents before him have, how lonely, demanding and humbling the presidency can be, said Billy Graham spokesman Larry Ross.

The conversation over coffee also touched on the upcoming National Day of Prayer, which has been embroiled in controversy this year. First, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Wisconsin ruled that observance of the May 6 event, proclaimed by every president since Harry Truman, is unconstitutional. And, days ago, the Pentagon disinvited Franklin Graham _ an honorary co-chair of this year's event _ to speak there because of his past comments disparaging Islam.

At today's meeting, "I thanked (Obama) for appealing Judge Crabb's decision," said Franklin Graham, who'd written a letter to the White House asking Obama to oppose and appeal the ruling.

The younger Graham also said the Pentagon's decision to disinvite him also came up.

"He was going to look into it," Graham reported.

Did that mean there was a chance he'd be re-invited?

"Well, you don't know," Graham said. "He is the commander-in-chief."

The president, who's been vacationing this weekend with the first lady in nearby Asheville, N.C., visited Billy Graham on his way out of town to give the eulogy in West Virginia for 29 coal miners who died in a recent explosion.

Michelle Obama didn't make the trip to Graham's homestead; the president was accompanied by Joshua DuBois, his religious affairs adviser.

Read more of this story at charlotteobserver.com

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