U.S. Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords has made remarkable progress for someone who was shot through the brain a year ago. Just surviving that gunshot wound was a miracle. But as I know from my career in traumatic brain injury, recovery is a long and difficult process.
So, quite frankly, I was saddened but not surprised to hear today that Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, is stepping down from office. Giffords announced that next week she will leave Congress to concentrate on her recovery.
The Arizona Republic reported Sunday that Giffords announced her resignation in a video on YouTube. She will be attending President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, and then leave office, according to The Republic.
Giffords’ speech has been dramatically affected by her brain injury, which was the work of a mad gunman who slaughtered a half dozen people outside a Tuscon supermarket, wounding Giffords in that bloodbath.
But despite her difficulty speaking as the result of her injuries, Giffords got her message across in her video.
“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” she said.
She also thanked her constituents for their prayers and support.
There will now have to be a special election to replace Giffords in her 8th Congressional District.
President Obama released a statement on Giffords’ resignation Sunday.
“Gabby Giffords embodies the very best of what public service should be. She’s universally admired for qualities that transcend party or ideology – a dedication to fairness, a willingness to listen to different ideas, and a tireless commitment to the work of perfecting our union. That’s why the people of Arizona chose Gabby – to speak and fight and stand up for them. That’s what brought her to a supermarket in Tucson last year – so she could carry their hopes and concerns to Washington. And we know it is with the best interests of her constituents in mind that Gabby has made the tough decision to step down from Congress.
Over the last year, Gabby and her husband Mark have taught us the true meaning of hope in the face of despair, determination in the face of incredible odds, and now – even after she’s come so far – Gabby shows us what it means to be selfless as well.
Gabby’s cheerful presence will be missed in Washington. But she will remain an inspiration to all whose lives she touched – myself included. And I’m confident that we haven’t seen the last of this extraordinary American.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, also issued a statement in response to the news that his friend and colleague Giffords had decided to resign from office.
“My heart is a little heavy after hearing of Congresswoman Giffords’ intentions to leave Congress. But it is also filled with the spirit of hope and optimism that she has given to everyone she has ever worked with and served. Congresswoman Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, have taught us all tremendous lessons in courage in the face of tragedy. They showed tremendous resolve in the midst of great challenges.
Even in the months that followed that horrible day in Tucson, Congresswoman Giffords sought and found opportunities to serve the people of the United States. She worked especially hard in pushing for federal support for every American who sustains a traumatic brain injury.
I, like so many members of Congress, will never forget the day Congresswoman Giffords returned to the House to vote in support of averting a government default and shutdown. It is my prayer that Congresswoman Giffords receives the blessings due to her for having given so much to others. I hope that she continues her remarkable progress in her recovery and that she and Mark have many, many fulfilling years together. She will always be a special person to me and a true friend.”
I, too, wish Giffords all the best in her journey of healing.