Giffords wrote to Harvard, seeking dialogue on civil discourse

A memorial for Christina Green stood outside Mesa Verde Elementary school, where the shooting victim was a student. A memorial for Christina Green stood outside Mesa Verde Elementary school, where the shooting victim was a student. (Rick Wilking/ Reuters)
January 11, 2011

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Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wrote an e-mail Friday, a day before she was grievously wounded, congratulating the new director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics and saying she wanted to talk with him about ways to tone down the political debate.

Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican who was named to the Harvard post earlier that day, had become friends with the Arizona congresswoman after they met as Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellows in Public Leadership in 2005.

“After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down,’’ Giffords wrote.

The rest of the e-mail was full of congratulations for Grayson, telling him that it was “an incredible opportunity that will lead to wonderful things.’’

Grayson told the Globe yesterday that Giffords is “a good friend.’’

“While it looks like there is no connection between the angry political rhetoric we’ve seen as of late, certainly her words are very poignant,’’ Grayson said. “At the time, I was really touched that she wrote back to me to congratulate me, and it inspires me to redouble the efforts on this issue.

“Hopefully, Gabby will recover and be able to help lead this fight.’’

Several commentators and politicians have been blaming the superheated rhetoric in today’s political debate for the Arizona shooting spree that killed six and wounded Giffords and 13 others.

Grayson said that although he and Giffords are ideologically different, they have always respected each other and wished each other good luck on their elections.

“My hope is that this situation will spark a dialogue and we’ll be able to tone it down a little bit. We have some serious problems, and we have to fix them,’’ Grayson said. — MARTIN FINUCANE AND JOHN M. GUILFOIL

Victim’s schoolmates haunted by shooting
TUCSON, Ariz. — For the children at Mesa Verde Elementary School, the questions are endless. First, they asked, again and again: Why would a stranger kill Christina Green, who had attended the school since kindergarten? Then, some asked quietly: Would that man come back to try to shoot them, too? And is it still safe to go to the supermarket?

As classes resumed for the first time since the shooting on Saturday that killed six people, including 9-year-old Christina, the school grappled with how to talk about the tragedy with the young students here. Many of them have never known anyone who has died. Now, one of their own had been killed.

In the two nights since the shooting, nightmares had interrupted sleep for many of the children: images of puppies suddenly dying, mothers crossing invisible lines and abruptly disappearing, or somebody coming to kidnap their friends in the middle of the day. The impact was raw and deep. Some children screamed and sobbed inconsolably, while others were stoic, promising their mothers that, yes, they understood, and, no, they did not need to talk.

They brought their stuffed owls and friendship bracelets and flowerpots as offerings for the growing memorial to Christina that lined the fence at the school. And her third-grade classmates hugged one another tightly in the yard before classes began.

“Are you sure you’re OK?’’ one asked a group of friends. “My mom said it’s OK to be sad.’’

Students were already talking about ways they could honor Christina. Could they name a local park in her memory? Or perhaps a baseball field, a tribute to the game she loved? Could they try to be more helpful to other students, as they had seen her do?

As parents escorted their children to class just after dawn, a few said they were worried about what their children would hear about the attacks, but many more said they felt a sense of relief that somebody else could help their children grieve. — NEW YORK TIMES

Kerry to speak on need to stem fiery rhetoric
WASHINGTON — US Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, will deliver a speech today on how political gridlock and “overheated ideology’’ inhibit the ability of the United States to address its problems.

Kerry’s speech, at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a Washington think tank, had been scheduled for weeks. Now, however, with the weekend shooting in Tucson, the talk has more immediacy.

“As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, we cannot ignore the real danger that our political institutions are mired in gridlock, as overheated ideology and partisan infighting leave us increasingly less able to address the tremendous economic challenges that lie ahead,’’ the center said in a statement. — GLOBE STAFF