Why I Ran for Public Office
I still want to make the world a better place.
In the fall of 2002, I became the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona Senate.
I used to joke that the best training I ever got for politics was mucking out horse stalls as a girl. But despite the less desirable aspects—the partisan bickering and intransigence, the power plays and stalemates—there was so much I loved about public office.
I eventually left the Arizona legislature to run for the United States House of Representatives, where I served for four years before the trajectory of my life changed forever. Ten years later, I am at the helm of a leading gun violence prevention organization and my husband is a United States senator. When an armed mob stormed the Capitol on January 6th, it was his safety I feared for, rather than the other way around.
I first ran for office all those years ago because I wanted to improve my community. I never could have imagined the path my life would take, but I’ve never once regretted that decision. That drive to make the world a better place continues to motivate me to this day. Today, on National Run for Office Day, I want to encourage everyone reading this who has that impulse to listen to that voice, and follow that drive wherever it might lead you.
In 2014, Emily’s List did me the great honor of naming their “Rising Star” award after me. The first recipient of this award was Stacey Abrams. Stacey, of course, would later narrowly lose the 2018 race to become the governor of Georgia, a state with rampant voter suppression. Rather than just decry the unfairness of her defeat, Stacey set out to make her state and our country a fairer and more equitable place. In 2020, Georgia went blue for Joe Biden, and this month’s run-off elections delivered two Democratic senators and a Demoratic majority in the Senate.
Our actions have consequences, and those consequences ripple out from us in ways we could never image. We often think of consequences in a negative sense: a president who spends years undermining the legitimacy of our institutions, and then encourages an armed mob to attack the Capitol.
But less time is spent talking about the positive ripple effect our actions can have on people we’ve never met. On the tenth anniversary of the Tucson shooting, I was touched to the core of my being by the tsunami of love, support, and encouragement I received. A veteran wrote that my recovery was a source of inspiration during his own journey; a woman wrote that she and her husband looked to my recovery for hope after her husband’s traumatic brain injury.
TEN YEARS LATER
It’s been a decade since the shooting that nearly took Gabby’s life. We’re marking this milestone by sharing stories and taking action.Read More
Your path may not go where you expected it would go when you were 10, or 20, or 30. In fact, there is almost no chance that it will. But if you follow the impulse that many of us have to better our communities and make a difference, there’s no telling whose lives will be forever changed and enriched because of it.
When tragedy strikes, someone often offers up the cliché that “everything happens for a reason.” When I think of the tragedy that struck my community of Tucson that cold winter morning 10 years ago, or when I think of the nearly 40,000 Americans who lose their lives to gun violence each year, it’s difficult to find a reason for this suffering.
Our actions have consequences, and those consequences ripple out from us in ways we could never image.
Instead, I prefer to focus on the purpose and meaning that one can make from suffering. I think of Joe Biden, who overcame a stutter and decades later, ran a winning presidential campaign that inspired 13-year-old Brayden Harringon to overcome his own stutter. I think of Lucy McBath, whose son was murdered in an act of racist gun violence, and whose grief and anger over her son’s death led her into the halls of Congress as a proud gun safety advocate.
When times get tough, my mantra is “move ahead.” Move ahead, because we can’t change the past and tomorrow isn’t promised. Move ahead, because you never know who you might inspire to do the same.
The power of our democracy belongs to its citizens—not to any one person. This Run for Office Day, I hope that everyone who feels called towards public service heeds that call. Our nation will be better off for it.
JOIN THE FIGHT
Gun violence costs our nation 40,000 lives each year. We can’t sit back as politicians fail to act tragedy after tragedy. Giffords brings the fight to save lives to communities, courthouses, and ballot boxes across the country—will you stand with us?