This past Sunday marked a significant memorial in the tone of American political discourse. In January 2011, at the height of nationwide vitriol and seething anger among U.S. citizens, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range by a young man who took the life of several others, including a judge and a nine year old little girl. And on Sunday, just a year after several in the media had already declared her death, Giffords confidently returned to a candelight service in Tucson, Arizona where she led the pledge of allegiance and moved an audience to tears with her undeniable strength.
Fully healed she is not. And no one would expect her to be. As Giffords spoke the words of the pledge, her voice terribly soft and frail, her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, helped lift a tender hand to her heart, since her body was simply too weak to manage the gesture.
Traumatic brain injuries are rarely overcome with such grace and calm as that which flows from the relationship between Giffords and Kelly. Often, doctors warn spouses that these types of tragedies will require the marriage to start from square one, rather than simply recovering from where it left off. In the case of Giffords and Kelly, the endurance and patience they demonstrate with one another is remarkable and certainly sets an example for other marriages that must undergo similar battles.
During the service held at the University of Arizona, each of the six fatalities and the twelve wounded were given the same reverance. With the presence of Giffords at the memorial, a reminder was given to all Americans that our national conversation can always be firm and passionate, but it must never drive us to hate those with whom we disagree.
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