A heavy-equipment operator from North Carolina is willing to move heaven and earth to get a national holiday declared in honor of the Rev. Billy Graham.
“Mr. Graham preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history – nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories,” Kyle Siler of Trinity wrote on change.org, where he launched a petition drive a week ago.
The petition is one of several along the same lines, but only Siler’s has gained significant traction, gathering more than 73,000 signatures by Monday afternoon and climbing at a rate of more than 10 per minute.
Siler, 41, said Monday he never attended one of Graham’s crusades, but his grandfather was a huge fan of the Charlotte-born preacher who died Feb. 21.
Siler’s grandfather died on Valentine’s Day 2017, and in sorting through his belongings recently, the family came across a large collection of Graham’s books and recordings.
Siler figures that getting a holiday declared for Graham would be a nice nod to his grandfather’s memory as well.
It won’t be easy.
A 1999 Congressional report said that since 1870, more than 1,100 different proposals had been introduced in Congress to establish permanent federal holidays, with only 11 getting approved. While they’re called “national holidays,” legally they only apply to federal employees and the District of Columbia. Each state individually decides what its legal holidays will be.
When Congress enacted the first federal holiday law in 1870, the report says, there were about 56,000 federal employees in Washington and across the country. Today there are more than 2.7 million.
Siler said his only other experience using change.org was shortly after President Donald Trump took office, and there was talk of impeachment. He started a petition to keep Trump in office.
“That one got about 16 signatures,” he said.
The momentum of the Graham holiday petition is more encouraging, Siler said. If the petition gathers more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days, he plans to notify the White House, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, including North Carolina’s congressional delegation and U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, along with his state representative, Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican who represents Moore and Randolph counties.
“If it grows fast enough, it’s like it’s the voice of the people, and it carries more weight,” he said. “We’re hoping it takes off.”