The Power of Gabby Giffords

Her language is so simple, but each word holds a world of emotion.

Clasping her husband Mark Kelly's hand, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stutter-stepping onto the Music Tent stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival, where she drew three standing ovations.

The first came when she walked onto the stage with Kelly.

The second, after Kelly spoke and introduced her as "my partner, my wife, and my inspiration, a strong Western woman, who has the courage to chart to a new path, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords."

The third, after the end of her brief remarks.

Kelly spoke first about "safety through responsibility" and "rights and responsibilities" in gun ownership. But there was something in Giffords's short sentences which followed, delivered in an almost sing-song cadence, that was deeply powerful, as if she'd concentrated all her emotion and passion into the tiny group of words she was able to access and say. One could write out what she said in traditional quotations, with the usual "she said," and "she continued," or even put the brief remarks in a block quote as one paragraph, since they were so short. But that wouldn't provide a full sense of what she said, her way of speaking almost in meter, breaking after a few words, even in the middle of a sentence, and then resuming for another few. She has said in the past that "speaking is difficult," and it's interesting to see how she's now, in her own way, speaking in a kind of poem. It sounded like this:

Stopping gun violence takes courage.
The courage to do what's right.
The courage of new ideas.
I've seen great courage
when my life was on the line.
Now is the time
to come together.
Be responsible.
Democrats and Republicans,
everyone.
EVERYONE.
We must never stop fighting.
Fight fight fight.
Be bold.
Be courageous.
The nation is counting on you.
Thank you.

Update: A sound quality issue in my recording of her remarks led me to originally state that Giffords did not mention the word guns. She did, and this item has been corrected to reflect that fact.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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