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Peter W.
Democrat VT 0

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  • The Class of 2006 Fondly Pays Tribute to Gabby Giffords

    by Representative Peter Welch

    Posted on 2014-01-08

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    WELCH. Thank you, Mr. Cohen. It is so wonderful to hear about our classmate. We who were elected with Gabby had a special privilege to get to know her personally and to see her grit and her determination and her gracefulness and her effectiveness representing her district, and the incredible job she did on the Armed Services Committee. I remember all of the things that you mentioned, and she had a kind word for everybody. She didn't forget anything. She was totally devoted to her staff and to her constituents. What a pleasure it was. All of us, I think, felt if Congress was filled with folks like Gabby Giffords, the world would be a better place, even Congress.

    Since her shooting 3 years ago, America has gotten a glimpse into that person of character and beauty that all of us got to know as a classmate. What an extraordinary person she is. I just want to read a little bit from her op-ed because it kind of captures things. When this happened 3 years ago, she mentions that she was allowed the opportunity for a new life, but she had planned to spend her 40s continuing her public service and starting a family with this wonderful man, her husband, who she married while she was in service here in Congress, Mark Kelly. Remember when we saw Mark Kelly struggling with the question of his wife in the hospital and having to decide whether to continue to command the mission into space, and how he struggled with that, wanting to be doing what he was trained all his life to do, and be also the extraordinary husband that he was, and how Gabby was his biggest supporter that he continue the mission. What a couple they are.

    And then to hear her describe what she has had to go through. She was really athletic. She rode horses, and she rode motorcycles. She hiked up and down the Grand Canyon. She was very physically fit and vigorous, an outdoors woman. In that moment when she was shot, the question was whether she was going to live. She did--a blessing for her, for us, for America, and her family. But her life then required her to face incredible challenges--how to learn things that we now take for granted. She describes: I spent the last 3 years learning how to talk again, how to walk again. I had to learn to sign my name with my left hand. It is gritty, painful, frustrating work every day. And rehab is endlessly repetitive. It is never easy because once you have mastered some movement or action or word, no matter how small, you move on to the next. You never rest.

    What Gabby did, that was the life that was in front of her, and she had to make a decision about whether to engage and plunge forward, knowing how hard that would be, how repetitive that would be, and she did it. Of course, she has been making progress, incredible progress, and she celebrates in this op-ed that she didn't image that her stricken, paralyzed arm would ever move again. For so many days it did not, until one day it did.

    So she faces life and embraces this new life that is nothing compared to that athletic, horse-riding, motorcycle-riding, and Grand Canyon climbing person that was very easy for her to be.

    She had all of that, those personal qualities with this enormous commitment to public life and had a belief that what we did to try to shape public policy mattered. How you treated the person in your life, the ones you love, incredibly important; but how you use that love to try to build laws that create opportunities for a better, less violent, more peaceful society. She had the energy and the heart to do that as well. And she is continuing that with her cause, working side by side with her husband, Mark, for sensible gun legislation.

    You know, when I think about what she has done, and, sure, we can have a legitimate debate about what is the right law. I definitely think the background checks, why wouldn't we have that apply to everybody. It doesn't restrict their ability; it just means they go through the check. When I consider that and think, all right, there are legitimate debates on both sides, and the Second Amendment is extremely important and we are all supporters of it, but what is the problem with Congress voting on it. Why is it that we can't summon the will to simply put on the floor for a debate and then a vote where each one of us says ``yes'' or ``no'' on that proposed legislation, background check, and let Americans then decide what they think of us, whether they agree with us or they don't.

    You know, at a certain point, it is just a question of whether we will do our job, and doing our job is debating the major issues of the time that are of concern to the people of this country, and then standing and voting ``yes'' or ``no.'' I say we owe that to Gabby. Gabby wouldn't see it that way. She would say that we owe it to ourselves to take [[Page H65]] on the responsibility that we sought when we ran for public office and took on the privilege of representing the people who sent us here.

    {time} 1845 So I say thank you to Gabby for all she has done, and I challenge us to try to do a little bit of what Gabby would do if she were here to help us today.

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