Rev. Michael Kirkland feels like he knows the man who will be sworn in today as the 45th President of The United States.
“I’ve been with him since his first speech in Ohio,” Kirkland, an Eastern Orthodox priest and local bail bondsman, said this week.
Kirkland gave the invocation at the first Ohio rally for Republican candidate Donald J. Trump at the Columbus Convention Center on Nov. 23, 2015.
“I have never been much involved in politics,” Kirkland said. “But I thought he was interesting … a well-educated business man; somebody different.”
Trump certainly proved to be different, winning the electoral college vote in November against the odds and heavily favored Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I got to talk with him privately for about 10 minutes. I heard him talk about morals and he said he wanted to put prayer back in schools,” Kirkland said.
Kirkland said the story that broke about a month before the general election regarding Trump’s degrading remarks about women didn’t sway his opinion of the president-elect.
“It was disturbing to hear it. The man is human. I think professional people in town say the same things,” Kirkland said. “He faced it. You make amends and move on, if you are truly repentant.”
Kirkland again got to speak to Trump when he was invited to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
“It happened because his director of advance, who plans all the rallies and appearances, was also of our same Orthodox faith.”
Regarding Trump’s faith, Kirkland said he saw that demonstrated during their brief chat.
“My son Tommy was ill at the time and he said that he’d pray for him. I saw a man with a heart. That impressed me a lot.”
Tommy died shortly after Christmas, 2015.
Kirkland said others he met, including Rudy Giuliani, General Mike Flynn and Newt Gingrich, have known Trump for many years, so their support of him carried some weight.
“I just became more impressed with him. I am hoping for the best for the country.”
Kirkland and his wife, Sharon, also attended the victory party at Trump Tower. “The hair on your arms stood up,” he said of that event.
Today’s inauguration is the culmination of more than a year of his support for Trump.
“Someone reminded me that I’ve been through all the steps with him. I wasn’t looking for it.”
The couple is invited to one of the balls. They arrived in the nation’s capital Thursday morning and will return to Delaware Saturday night.
“I am praying hard the angels will protect everyone. This is historic; such a great honor. He won the hearts of the people.”
Gazette Editor Anthony Conchel can be reached at 740-413-0900.