Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)


There are many people in the spotlight this week. President Obama delivers what could be his last State of the Union address. Mitt Romney is (finally) releasing his tax returns. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is engaged in a high-profile dispute with the Transportation Security Administration.

But Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is the player of the week. A year after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt that left six dead, Giffords will attend the State of the Union, sitting between Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). Mark Kelly, her husband, will attend the State of the Union as first lady Michelle Obama’s guest.

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 Over the weekend, Giffords announced in a stirring video that she will resign her seat this week. There was speculation last year that Giffords might launch a Senate bid, but in retrospect, that seems never to have been under serious consideration.

The biggest decision was whether Giffords would run for reelection to her House seat. Republicans in Washington indicated they would not try to defeat Giffords, who narrowly won her 2010 race.

 Yet Giffords decided that she needs to focus on her recovery. Her public appearances and interviews have been impressive, most notably when she stunned the Capitol last summer to vote on the debt deal. Members of both parties hugged her in what was Congress’s most memorable moment of 2011.

 She has overcome so many odds. Ninety percent of gunshot wounds to the head result in death. The fact that she is walking and talking is remarkable.

 But she is still healing, and that process still has some time to run.

 Giffords’s long-term future is unclear; her video announcement suggests she will be “back,” but back exactly, in what manner or where, is not specified. Nevertheless, having survived her harrowing ordeal, the congresswoman is now a national inspiration. She can affect more lives being outside of Congress than serving in it. There are many chapters left in her life, though one is about to close. Giffords will be missed on Capitol Hill.