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05/28/2013 11:21 am ET

Gabby Giffords, In Bard Commencement Speech, Tells Grads To 'Be Bold, Be Courageous' (VIDEO)

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband Mark Kelly told graduates at Bard College in New York the country is counting on them to "be bold."

"Your future shines bright," Giffords said in her speech during Saturday's commencement. "Find your purpose and go for it. Starting tomorrow you can change the world. The nation's counting on you to create, to lead, to innovate."

Giffords' speech was short, as she is still recovering from the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that nearly killed her and has difficulty speaking.

"Be bold, be courageous, be your best," Giffords said.

Giffords spoke after Kelly, a retired space shuttle commander, gave a longer speech. Giffords received an honorary degree, while Kelly joked he was just getting a t-shirt for the speech.

The two have become active voices in the effort to enact stronger gun control laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre.

Kelly acknowledged the recent setbacks in Congress and the failed attempt to pass new background check legislation. He also took the opportunity to lambast the National Rifle Association.

“The gun lobby has years on us. The NRA has been around for 150 years," Kelly said. "They've forgotten what they used to stand for, which is gun safety and a proud tradition of hunting, and now they mostly stand for the gun manufacturers.”

Kelly recounted how he made it from college in Long Island, N.Y., to launching a career as an astronaut. Kelly also recounted the phone call from Pia Carusone, Giffords' chief of staff, telling him that his wife had been shot.

"Try to imagine that phone call: Pia was an experienced and accomplished congressional chief of staff, and I spent my career learning how to manage crises that we hoped would never come at NASA," Kelly said. "But nothing, in either of our careers, could have prepared us for that moment. Nothing could have prepared us for what was about to come next."

"I didn't know courage and bravery until I saw what my wife went through," Kelly added.

Kelly warned graduates they too will likely have some "bumps in the road," but promised "the journey will be worth it for you as well."

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