Gabrielle Giffords, American Hero

The words of President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and members of both parties in Congress ring true, because they are true. If our prayers are answered and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) stages a full recovery and continues her public life, she may well become America's leading symbol, voice and practitioner of the higher standard of politics that most Americans yearn for.

When I hear the strong and sincere words of personal and professional respect for Gabrielle Giffords from her Republican colleagues in the Congress, I wonder whether this episode could become more than a fleeting moment, and begin a larger and lasting movement in our political life.

Let's end the hatred, the vindictiveness, the character assassination and personal destruction that has sadly become central to our political life. Let's end the attacks on the patriotism of political opponents and the Americanism of political adversaries.

Let's consider how the career of Gabrielle Giffords, and the good will she inspires from political supporters and opponents alike, makes her so quintessentially American and so classically heroic.
If there is good news in this sad and sorry affair, it is that we may soon be discussing the first speech Gabrielle Giffords will make when she returns to the floor of the Congress, to a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.

Gabby Giffords was surrounded in her district by the most ugly aspects of our modern politics. But instead of responding by hurling insults across the aisles and venom over the airwaves, she extended her hand to promote the civil and respectful debates and compromises that are a model of what the Founding Fathers envisioned our diverse Republic to be.

Instead of responding to the ugliness of our times by raising the ante with ugliness, in response she called for more reason, understanding and good faith in our public life.

Instead of parading to the cameras with the most angry statements, designed to get the most air time, Gabby Giffords sat before the cameras with calm dignity, spoke to her viewers with quiet eloquence, and let her good will and good faith champion a more noble notion than the vast wasteland of vindictive attacks.

Let's pray as one for those who have left us after this latest unspeakable tragedy, and for the full recovery of Gabrielle Giffords.

Let's consider that there can be a heroism to public life by those who rise above the troubles of their times and speak higher truths about what America represents.

I hope, pray, and now expect that the day will come when Gabby Giffords will again enter the chamber of the House of Representatives and address the Congress and the nation about the need to work together in our huge and diverse country.

If and when she does, Gabby Giffords will rise to make remarks that will elevate our civic life once again. She will continue a public life that has only just begun. She will speak to a nation that is ready to hear her message, and a Congress that would be well advised to listen.