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Congress wears black and white ribbons during State of the Union

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Jim Watson/AFP/Newscom

(Read caption) Speaker of the House John Boehner (R.) wears a black and white ribbon prior to the State of the Union address by US President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

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It looked like most members of Congress present for the State of the Union address were wearing black and white ribbons. What do they mean, and where did they come from?

The ribbons are meant to honor the 19 victims from the Arizona shooting where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot.

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Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida and Michael McCaul (R) of Texas proposed the idea in a letter to their colleagues, which read as follows:

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"In tribute to the victims of the Arizona tragedy, we encourage Members, and everyone attending the State of the Union address Tuesday night to wear a black/white lapel ribbon.

"The tragic shooting on January 8th wounded our friend and colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and caused the deaths of six and wounding of twelve others. The black/white ribbon has been a symbol of unity and hope for the entire Tucson community in the wake of this event. The white ribbon represents hope for a peaceful, nonviolent society. The black ribbon is in remembrance of all who have died and been wounded as a result of violence.

"As the Tucson community works to heal and comes together in solidarity, I, along with my House colleague, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz believe it would be fitting that Members, Administration officials and others, wear these ribbons on Tuesday as a symbol of solidarity with the community and the nation."