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Rebecca Sive

Rebecca Sive

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Mark Kelly at National Prayer Breakfast: Will Something Good Come of This?

Posted: 02/ 3/11 11:17 AM ET

"I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it." --Barack Obama, Tucson

Will something good come of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords? Hard to say, as timid public officials continue to tiptoe around the issue of gun control.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about a related issue: Will something good come of this shooting for other American girls?

Right now, I'm not sure, but here are my thoughts.

Like Christina Green I was a young girl who wanted to be class president.

So, that Saturday afternoon when I heard the story of Christina Green's tragic death, I cried.

For I could put myself in her shoes. I could imagine how she felt as she got ready that Saturday morning to meet her Congresswoman, getting dressed to meet her dream come true. I'm guessing she was thinking that Saturday morning: I'm dressing to go to meet the person I will be one day.

Indeed, I've kept remembering ever since: While watching Christina Green's funeral service; while hearing the updates about Congresswoman Giffords' condition; while reading Mark Kelly's comments this morning, remembering what it felt like to be that starry-eyed young girl Christina Green was that Saturday morning: The one whose loving mother said yes; yes, you can do anything; yes, you could even be President one day.

I've remembered loving singing the Star Spangled Banner; attending the Fourth of July parade and saluting the flag; getting to meet my parents' friends, public officials who, my parents told me, were engaged in the noblest of callings, public service.

In these jaded days and tragic times, it's hard to believe such a time existed, but it did.

And, as it turns out, as we've now all learned in the worst possible way, that time exists now, too. That time existed in the life of Christina Green, in that life now snuffed out.

Recently, I read a book about the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, the summer when a grown-up American girl--the great American woman Fannie Lou Hamer--voiced the political dreams of another generation of American women, of African-American women who just wanted to be part of this democracy, just be able to vote and state their case.

As I finished reading, I remembered attending the Democratic National Convention that summer of 1964, the very convention where Hamer and her colleagues had fought so hard to be a part of a democracy that would be as good as they had imagined it, a democracy as good for African Americans as it was for whites.

I had begged my parents to take me to the convention, for I had big political dreams.

Political activists that they were, they agreed. I was thrilled. To this day, over forty years later, I can still remember sitting in the balcony, leaning over to watch the proceedings and hear the speeches. I can even remember what I wore that day: A navy blue suit I thought befitted an American girl who might someday speak from such a stage.

I've thought, over and over these last few weeks: Christina Green was my kind of American girl; she had that same American girl dream.

And, so, Christina went, one sunny Saturday morning, to meet her Congresswoman.

In fact, tens of thousands of American girls have dreamed Christina Green's American girl dream, dreamed it for generations.

Just think about another Arizona American girl: Justice O'Connor. As the Justice sat there at the memorial service, I wondered what was going through her mind, as she listened to the President eulogize an Arizona girl of a different generation. I bet she thought some of what I was thinking: I was that girl too.

Just think about Janet Napolitano, another Arizona American girl, also sitting there, just a couple seats away from the Justice. Janet Napolitano, young enough to be Justice O'Connor's daughter, yet old enough to remember a girlhood two generations ago, when she first dreamed of public service.

Just think about First Lady Michelle Obama, also sitting there: Michelle Obama, a daughter of Fannie Lou Hamer, in her fight to be a part of this democracy.

In fact, American girls dream the very same political dreams American boys do.

It's just that, for too many generations, those dreams have been denied to all but the most brilliant and strong among us, like Justice O'Connor, Secretary Napolitano and the First Lady.

But we still dare to dream.

And so we come to Christina Green's generation of American girls: What will they take away from Christina's death and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords? Will there now be fewer of them who dream her dream?

That would be tragic, too. Because of trailblazers like Justice O'Connor, Secretary Napolitano and Michelle Obama, today's American girls--in Arizona, or Illinois, or Mississippi, or wherever--can both dream big and realize those dreams.

I wonder how many young girls are being told these days, as Giffords tries to learn how to speak and walk again: Look what happened to Gabby Giffords and Christina Green; that life is too dangerous; it's not worth it; best to stay behind the scenes; best not to dream their dream.

And how many American girls, in the generation coming up behind right behind Gabby Giffords, girls like the student government president Emily Fritze, who spoke so eloquently at that memorial service, will wonder today whether to choose a life of public service?

How many will give a very serious second thought to whether life in public service is worth it; to whether a life in the very bull's-eye is worth the price Gabby Giffords is now paying and Christina Green has already paid?

Growing up, American girls' dreams of holding public office were, if largely unachievable, innocent. In Gabby Giffords' growing-up days, those dreams had come into the realm of reality, as something both attainable and manageable. Today, in Christina's and Emily's day, the American girls' dream of a life of public service seems, instead, like a nightmare of a life at war.

Memorably, at that memorial service, President Obama said that he, "want(s) us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it."

The consensus is that the President was talking about his oft-expressed dream for an American democracy that is more civil, one in which, as he put it: "We are talking to each other in ways that heal, not that wound."

But this American girl takes another meaning from the President's words: That we all pledge to make our democracy so good that millions of American girls will choose bettering it for their life's work--choose to wrest the good of it from the evil they saw in Tucson that Saturday.

 
 
 

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