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Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly Inspire Eisenhower Audience

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was all smiles as she took the stage of Eisenhower Auditorium last night, arm in arm with husband Captain Mark Kelly. The couple took part in the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Lecture series by sharing their story as Giffords continues to recover after suffering a near-fatal gunshot wound.

“I thought I had the risky job,” said Kelly, a retired Navy Pilot and NASA astronaut. “As it would turn out, my wife Gabby was the one who almost lost her life serving our country.”

The evening began with news recordings from the 2011 Tucson, Arizona shooting where Giffords was severely injured and transitioned into more light-hearted images of astronaut Kelly defying gravity in space. U2’s “Beautiful Day” played in the background highlighting the couple’s positive outlook about the future.

At the conclusion of the video, Captain Mark Kelly spoke of his parents and childhood in New Jersey. He learned the value of hard work from his mother, who become one of the first female police officers in the state after a dedicated training regime.

“This was the first time in my life that I saw the power of having a goal and a plan, and working really, really hard and not giving up,” said Kelly.

He enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy in hopes of becoming a flight pilot, but claimed it was not as easy as Top Gun made it out to be. In fact, he struggled in training and even had commanders question his career decision. He never gave up, though and now has over 50 flights to his name.

“How good you are at the beginning of something is no indicator of what you can became,” he said of his early struggles.

Then, Kelly spoke vividly of his career as both a navy pilot and astronaut, ranging from near death experiences in Desert Storm to the dangers of traveling into space. None of which could have prepared him for January 8, 2011, when he received a fateful call telling him his wife had been shot at an event in Arizona.

Since then, she underwent multiple brain surgeries, therapy, and rehab sessions and now has a prosthetic piece to her skull. Despite all this, Gabrielle Giffords resilience was unwavering and she returned to Congress nearly seven months later to vote on a crucial debt ceiling vote.

“The power of the human spirit is an incredible thing,” said Kelly of his spouse’s commitment to recovery. “She teaches me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure.”

Giffords only made a brief appearance on stage, but her powerful words had the audience up on its feet and holding back tears.

“I’m still fighting to make the world a better place, and you can too,” said Giffords. “Be bold, be courageous, and be your best.”

About the Author

Becca Erdman

Becca is a senior majoring in Public Relations with a minor in Sociology

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