Giffords, Kelly inspire audience

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Giffords, Kelly inspire audience

Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly.

Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly.

Americans for Responsible Solutions

Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly.

Americans for Responsible Solutions

Americans for Responsible Solutions

Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly.

By Dylan Reynolds, Writer

Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, former Arizona congresswoman who survived the 2011 Tuscon shooting, spoke alongside her husband at the annual Delta Gamma Lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Giffords husband, Mark Kelly, a retired US Navy Captain and NASA astronaut, opened up the event with an account of his life.

He spoke of his upbringing in New Jersey, where he dreamed of being the first man to walk on Mars.  Although that dream never materialized, he did become an astronaut, during which time he visited the International Space Station four times.

Kelly acknowledged that he initially struggled with flying airplanes, let alone space shuttles.

“How good you are at the beginning is not a good indicator of how good you can become,” he advised attendees.

His presentation then shifted to the topic of Giffords. He told the story of how they met, how they got married, and how she was elected to Congress.

Then he recalled that fateful day in 2011 when a man attempted to assassinate her in the parking lot of a Tucson grocery store.  He listed her various injuries, including a bullet to the head.  He also gave a detailed account of his emotional distress as he rushed to the Arizona hospital.

After describing Giffords’ long, ongoing recovery, Kelly urged the audience to “deny the acceptance of failure.”  As he spoke those words, Giffords emerged from behind the curtains, triumphantly waving to the crowd while walking to the podium. The audience rose to their feet in applause, giving her a hero’s welcome.

Giffords encouraged young people to “get involved with your community.  Be passionate.  Be courageous.”  As her remarks came to a close, she received another standing ovation.

Following the presentation, a question and answer session was held.  Question topics ranged from the source of Gifford’s optimism to Kelly’s thoughts on extraterrestrial life.

When asked about her physical therapy, Giffords told the audience that she does yoga twice a week and is planning on riding in the El Tour de Tucson 40-mile bicycle race in March.

In response to another question, she said that since the shooting, she has learned “to be grateful for friends and family.  To live each day to the fullest.”

As the session ended and the audience filed out of the hall, many attendees expressed their satisfaction.

Freshman Harrison Lewis called the event an “awesome presentation.”  He cited a quote by Kelly about group decision-making as his favorite part of the presentation: “None of us is as dumb as all of us.”

The Gamma Delta Lecture is an annual event that was founded by UA alumna Dorothy Garrett Martin in 1991.  The lecture focuses on values and ethics, and is designed to celebrate those principles.  Past speakers include Barbara Bush, Gerald Ford, and Michael J. Fox.

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