On January 8, 2011, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, a deranged gunman shot and killed six people, including federal judge John Roll and a 9-year-old girl, and wounded 14 others. His apparent target, who was shot through the head and critically wounded, was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
On January 12, President Obama flew to Tucson to address a memorial service for the victims. He brought with him several of Congresswoman Gifford’s close friends, including Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, New York’s Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They visited Gabby Gifford in her hospital room, and shortly after President Obama left Congresswomen Wasserman Schultz and Pelosi and Senator Gillibrand with their friend, as he later reported to an emotional audience at the memorial service, “Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.” With reference to those who were killed, the President said:
“And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.”
We have been deeply moved by those stirring words, and we feel especially connected to these events because Skip is a long-time Tucson resident, and Mike is a long-time resident of the Albany, New York area that Senator Gillibrand calls home. We both feel strongly that if Gabby Giffords could open her eyes so soon after a bullet had passed through her brain and nearly taken her life, America is called upon to open its eyes as well.
We are now fully enlisted in, and deeply committed to, the cause of establishing and preserving civil discourse in America. Our lives have prepared us for this undertaking. We are retired attorneys who have known each other since early childhood. A full half century ago, we were a championship level high school debate team in our home town of Brookings, South Dakota.
Now we have become debate partners again, dedicated to inspiring a new spirit of honest, thoughtful inquiry into the debate about America’s future. And dedication to this effort is especially important to us, as a crisis of major proportions looms in America. The future of American democracy is now in jeopardy, something we never expected to see in our lifetimes.
We hope you too will resolve to do everything within your power to save the American Dream for current and future generations. We cannot hope to accomplish a great deal on our own, so we hope that others who can will join in providing this sort of information service, or make similar contributions. Please join in our efforts.