Uniting to Honor the Fallen
House Chamber, Washington, D.C. January 12, 2011. M. Speaker:
I haven’t gotten to know Gabrielle Giffords yet, and I thank God that by His grace, I haven’t lost the chance to do so.
I didn’t know those Americans who came to speak with her that day.
But what I do know is that they gathered last Saturday in Tucson to do something uniquely American. Gabrielle Giffords was reaching out and listening to her employers, the American People, and they had come to offer her their guidance and advice and counsel.
In this respect, the attack on Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents struck at the very heart of our process of representative democracy – that very point where the American people communicate their views to their elected representatives. That is the linchpin in the entire process of self-government.
This was not only an attack on those who serve, it was an attack on every citizen who steps forward to offer honest advice and counsel and yes – even criticism – to those they have selected to serve them and to serve the nation.
It is the nature and the strength of a participatory democracy to have passionate and heart-felt differences of opinion.
But in moments like this, we see the very best of the American people come forward. Men and women of good will cease to be Republicans or Democrats; we put aside our passionate differences and disagreements; we suspend our political agendas; we silence partisan recriminations.
We unite and stand together as one nation – the American nation; one race – the American race; one people – the American people.
By doing so, we pay supreme honor to our fellow citizens who were felled in the exercise of their rights and responsibilities as a free people; we salute the heroes who without a moment’s hesitation rose to resist and stop this craven and depraved attack; and we assure the world, as Lincoln said, that “that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”