Arguably, these two names represent two of the most respected men in American history: Einstein for his amazing brain and discoveries and Graham for his amazing wisdom and integrity.
About 10 years ago, community leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their city’s “Favorite Son” to a luncheon honoring him. Battling the effects of Parkinson’s disease, the 81-year-old Graham, who never liked to chase the spotlight, was hesitant to accept, but he finally agreed.
After lunch and a series of speakers praising him, Graham humbly stepped to the podium, looked at the crowd and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time Magazine as the Man of the Century.”
He continued with a well-known anecdote about Einstein:
As the wild-haired astrophysicist was once traveling by train from Princeton, New Jersey, the conductor came down the aisle, punching passengers’ tickets. When he came to Einstein, the great man reached into his vest and trouser pockets, but he pulled out no ticket. He then looked in his briefcase – still, no ticket. It wasn’t in the seat beside him, either.
The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.”
Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued punching tickets down the aisle, and as he was about to move to the next car, he noticed Einstein down on his hands and knees, searching under his seat.
The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, please don’t worry, I know who you are. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.”
Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”
Always the master of timing, Graham paused as the audience chuckled at that final line. Then Graham continued his story:
See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand-new suit. My children and grandchildren tell me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.
You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear the news that I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.