Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

'Week Of Solidarity' Will Help To Unite

Jan 20, 2011

Last week, the 112th Congress began with a reading of the U.S. Constitution. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona read from the First Amendment, the portion that gives every American the right to peaceably assemble. Two days later, violence erupted in Tucson, Az. that left Rep. Giffords and others severely wounded and took the lives of six people, including a 9-year-old girl.

The news shocked and angered me. Later, I took some comfort in remembering the words the congresswoman read in the House of Representatives. I thought perhaps in the wake of this tragedy, we could all use a bit of peaceful assembly – to set aside differences and recognize one another as neighbors, fellow Americans. 

That is why on Monday I called for a Week of Solidarity in the 8th District of New Jersey in honor of the victims and heroes in Tucson and for all of us here at home.

I called upon our faith leaders to hold services and events this week to allow us to reflect on this national tragedy and pray for the victims and their families.

This is also our opportunity to find solidarity right here in our own communities, many of which, as in Tucson, have been affected by gun violence. Now is the time to heal our own wounds and find unity where there may be strife.

I intentionally announced the Week of Solidarity at Hamilton Club in Paterson, on the eve of Alexander Hamilton’s birthday, to evoke the memory of one of the greatest political debates in the history of our nation. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson passionately argued over the path of a nation’s future at a time when the nation’s future was uncertain. Despite the gravity of the issues they discussed, they never degenerated into violence.

I find it especially appropriate that the Week of Solidarity will end on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day when we remember a man who led us to becoming a more unified nation.

Congresswoman Giffords also provides us with an example to follow.  Even when threats against her arose, she continued her duties with an undeniable dedication and unwavering commitment to her serving her community. Since the shooting, we have learned that Rep. Giffords was troubled by the state of public discourse in American and wrote to friend about the need for all of us to improve the way we engage with one another.

I agree that too often, our political rhetoric can get overheated and vitriolic. Let her example be a guide for all of us.

This is not about being on the political left or the right. This is about revitalizing our American ability to participate in rigorous, thoughtful debate for the same of bettering our communities and our nation.

I hope we can all use this Week of Solidarity to join together and pray for Rep. Giffords and the other victims of this terrible shooting. Together, as Americans, we will move forward from the shadow of this dark day.