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As most readers who have small children in their lives are acutely aware, we're precisely two weeks away from Christmas Day. This is also a Friday, the day the week when I reprise an instructive or inspirational quotation. Today's comes from the Rev. Billy Graham, with an assist from John F. Kennedy Jr. and his father.

We'll never know because he died young, and tragically, but I believe John F. Kennedy Jr. was planning to run for political office when the airplane he was piloting went down off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in the summer of 1999. At the time, Kennedy was publishing George, a nonpartisan political and cultural magazine he'd founded four years earlier. I had written a couple of pieces for the magazine and got to know John a little bit. He was a surprisingly good editor, who gave off an aura of competence that complemented his natural charisma.

For all we know, he -- and not Hillary Clinton -- would have been the dynastic Democrat elected to represent New York in the Senate in 2000. I know John was thinking about it. He might still be in the Senate. Or perhaps in the White House by now. For those old enough to remember JFK Jr.'s father, it's all too sad to contemplate.

I've saved many of those old George magazine issues and was leafing through one this week when I came across John's 1996 interview with Billy Graham. I had interviewed Graham myself in the 1980s, and either John or George editor Richard Bradley (I can't remember which) had asked me about it before John sat down with the famous evangelist. Here are excerpts from that session:

John Kennedy: In this life, where does our own free will end and God's will begin? Are we always responsible for our own actions, or is there a point at which God's will takes over?

Billy Graham: We have tremendous responsibility ourselves because God has given us a will of our own. He doesn't push us around like robots.

JK: Why do we need to concern ourselves with such earthly matters as the welfare bill or even voting?

BG: Because the Scripture teaches us that we have to be good citizens and that we have to obey those in authority, even the policeman. So I think God has given us great leeway, but he has also told us to be good citizens.

JK: As you look toward your retirement, is there a new perspective you've gained on your work?

BG: Yes. I gave a lecture recently, and afterward someone asked me what the greatest surprise of my life was. I said, "The brevity of life." I remember a statement that your father made once. He said, "So much to do, and so little time." And he didn't know then what a short time he had left.

So much to do, so little time. That's our quote of the week. 

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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