Giffords Tragedy Underscores Risk

Monday, 10 Jan 2011 07:45 AM

By Brad Blakeman

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On a weekend in America when families should have been preoccupied with family and church, our nation was rocked by a senseless act of violence that left U.S. District Judge John Roll dead and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords seriously wounded.

The victims also included a 9-year-old girl who was killed and numerous others killed or injured.

At this time of national tragedy we must first and foremost honor the memories of the dead and pray for those ailing for a full and complete recovery as soon as possible.

We also at this time must not let the evil acts of one change the goodness and openness of our democracy and American way of life.

The people who gathered in front of the Safeway in Tucson did so to hear from their elected representative at a typical town-hall style meeting. This was not a political gathering; this was a governmental meeting where constituents met to listen to and interact with Rep. Giffords.Gabrielle, Giffords,John,Roll,Tucson,Safeway,Represetative,Arizona,Jared, Loughner,Gun,

This type of meeting is as old as our nation. In an age of cell phones, Internet, BlackBerrys, and tweets, nothing can or should substitute for face-to-face interaction with our elected officials.

Our government must be open and our officials accessible. We cannot allow a few criminals to change the way we do things to the point that officials become too distant from the people they serve.

Elected officials must undertake reasonable risks to serve, just as the police, firemen and soldiers do. I learned this sacrifice first hand after service as a member of the White House senior staff and losing my nephew on 9/11.  Tommy Jurgens was a first responder hero.

After that tragic day it became more apparent than ever to me that government service comes with danger and responsibility. For me it was a risk worth taking.

Our history is replete with acts of selflessness for the good of the Republic. Gen. George Washington, facing a death sentence from Britain, did not merely direct his troops, he led them to victory and gave birth to the greatest nation the world has ever known.

President Lincoln, in an effort to preserve the Union and abolish slavery, did not merely oversee a Civil War, he went to the battlefields and led his troops.

Robert Kennedy did not retreat from public service when his brother President John F. Kennedy was assassinated; he instead sought to lead this country by running for president himself.

Martin Luther King did not merely direct the civil rights movement he led the civil rights movement at great personal risk and sacrifice.

President Ronald Reagan, after being shot within the first few months of his presidency, did not retreat behind the walls of the White House for the remainder of his presidency, he served openly and accessibly and ran for re-election.

Gabrielle Giffords did not hide from her constituents; she regularly engaged with them, openly and face to face, not from the comfort and security of her office, but from the town square where the people are.

Those who choose to serve the public do so at some level of personal risk and sacrifice. We all must honor and respect that service regardless of party affiliation.

Those who choose to serve the public as elected or appointed officials, must do so openly and accessibly to those they serve. Reasonable and necessary precautions must be taken commensurate with the actual or perceived threats to their service.

What happened in Tucson is not a reflection of America. We know who and what we are, and what we stand for as a nation.

Let¹s redouble our efforts at this time of tragedy to rededicate ourselves to the principles, values, aspirations, and actions which represents all that is good with America.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of politics and public policy at Georgetown University.


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