The Arizona congresswoman announced over the weekend that she would be resigning from the House to focus on her recovery from the head wound she suffered in the shooting last year in Tucson that left six people dead.
House members stood and cheered as she was escorted to her seat for tonight's speech. Some chanted her name. They cheered again as President Barack Obama, on his way into the chamber, stopped and embraced Giffords.
Her husband, Mark Kelly, looked on from the first lady's box. Giffords waved to him.
In Tucson yesterday, Giffords took part in what was described as her final work in her home district, meeting with people who were with her on the day of the shooting, and then visiting a food bank.
She was determined to go to Washington for tonight's speech, to make up for the one she missed last year after the shooting.