Gabrielle Giffords: Putting her constituents first

Associated Press
Gabrielle Giffords, right, was embraced by Pam Simon, one of those also wounded in the shooting, during a vigil last month.

When US Representative Gabrielle Giffords attends the president’s State of the Union address tonight, it will be one of her final acts as a member of Congress. On Sunday afternoon, just over a year after she was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket, the Arizona congresswoman announced that she would resign from the House this week.

In a moving video posted on YouTube and Facebook, the popular centrist Democrat suggests that, with months of rehabilitation still ahead of her, she knows she cannot give her district and its voters the representation they deserve. “I don’t remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me,’’ Giffords says in a halting but upbeat voice. “I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week.’’

With a year of intensive treatment, Giffords has made remarkable progress - so severe were her wounds that she had to relearn to walk and talk - but her video makes it clear that significant physical and neurological challenges remain. The perks and power of congressional status can be a hard thing to relinquish, and Giffords’s determination to put her health and her constituents ahead of the attractions of office is admirable. The House will be diminished without her.