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Rep. Barbara Lee Headshot

Reflections During MLK Week

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It is with a heavy heart that I continue to reflect upon the horrendous act of violence that occurred in Arizona on January 8, 2011. During this time of reflection, I pray for my colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, her family, staff, supporters and all of the victims and survivors of this unspeakable act of violence. I am encouraged to see Gabby's continued recovery, and I extend my sympathy to the families and friends whose loved ones were killed, and pray for the full recovery of all of the injured. Whether they had a title or not, these were human beings whose lives were cut short by this senseless act of gun violence.

The tragedy in Tucson was fresh in my mind on Monday as I gathered with the community to commemorate and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a man who taught us that violence was not the answer and who died an untimely death at the barrel of a gun. In the context of last week's violence, I realize how relevant his words and actions continue to be, 43 years after his death. As I reflected on his life and on the impact he had in changing our society, I asked myself, what would Dr. King say about this senseless act of violence, and what would he want us to do? I am certain that he would preach and teach us to use this very sad and difficult period to rededicate ourselves to the principles of nonviolence. I am certain he would warn us that hate speech often leads to violence, and that we should fight for gun control and gun safety measures. And, I am certain that Dr. King would tell us to revamp our mental health system, so that people on the edge receive the mental health services necessary to keep them from going over the edge. I am also sure that Dr. King would remind us that both subtle and not so subtle images and words of violence create an environment that communicates messages leading to hostility and anger.

Now more than ever, let us remember that we can start working as peacemakers in our own communities. We can begin by supporting and educating our young people, by volunteering our time and energy to bolster safer communities, and by working to institute policies that reflect our principles of peace and nonviolence. As we pray for Gabby's full recovery, and for the full recovery of all of those injured, we must acknowledge that we also have work to do as peacemakers. So, in honor of Congresswoman Giffords - and many others before her who braved injury and hardship for the sake of service - we are proudly ready to continue our efforts.