U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords just got clearance to attend the space shuttle Endeavor’s final launch this Friday. Her husband Mark Kelly told Katie Couric that when Giffords heard the news, she said,
"Awesome," and then pumped her fist. The exciting news comes at the same time as Giffords' inclusion on Time magazine's 2011 "Time 100" list of "The Most Influential People in the World."
President Obama wrote a short essay that accompanied her entry, praising her as "a model of civility and courage and unity" and explaining just how beloved she is across the country ...
The reason she has long been admired by people of all political stripes is that she embodies the best of what public service should be: hard work and fair play, hope and resilience, a willingness to listen and a determination to do your best in a busy world.
I don't disagree with the President. But I'm still not convinced that Giffords is particularly worthy of a spot on Time's list.
Giffords' story is a compelling one. We were all astounded when we learned what happened to the Arizona congresswoman. The incident is still sending shock waves through our public conscience. We're all rooting for her to get back to work and hoping she can make a full recovery so that she might be able to re-claim her seat in 2012. What's more, we do deeply admire her for her work ethic, for facing the long road of recovery ahead of her with a positive, can-do attitude. It's so American -- Obama hits the nail on the head when he says that she embodies what public service should be.
That all said, I don't see her influencing anyone. Isn't that word -- and you would think, by extension, a list of 100 influential people -- reserved for someone who actually persuades or leads others to change? I would HOPE that Giffords' strength, positive attitude, and spirit would influence others -- particularly other congresspeople who seem far too hung up on picking petty fights for their pet causes. But sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case. The unfortunate circumstances that led to Giffords' current situation hasn't really influenced anyone or anything.
That doesn't mean that Giffords isn't one of the most inspirational people in the world. We see her and are inspired to work hard, to power through, to rise above challenges both big and small that we face in our everyday lives. She has the potential to become one of the most influential people, because we're all on Team Gabby. And once she's back in fighting form, she could surely make a mark on the political landscape or perhaps even the health arena. Who knows what the future holds? For now, though, it seems to me that Time extended the "influential" label to Giffords before she has even had the opportunity to affect change.
Do you think Gabrielle Giffords belongs on the 2011 TIME 100?
Image via Bill Morrow/Flickr