On the final evening of the MAKERS Conference in Southern California, Gabby Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, a retired American astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain, introduced his wife for the last segment of the conference -- reminding the audience of everything that she had endured.
In 2011, Giffords, a Democratic congresswoman representing Arizona’s 8th congressional disctict, was shot at a supermarket near Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and many others were injured. Sustaining severe injuries including head trauma, Giffords has had to re-learn to walk, talk, read and write.
She resigned from Congress in 2012 after casting her last vote on the debt ceiling six months prior. Her appearance in Congress that day brought everyone to their feet.
The audience at the MAKERS Conference was visibly moved as a video played showing Giffords as a young girl, a young woman and a young congresswoman. The video included news clips from the shooting, her subsequent hospitalization and recovery and current footage of Giffords with her husband -- smiling and holding his hand, joking and reflecting on her ongoing journey to recovery.
“Gabby has been in incredible inspiration to me. Each and every day, she reminds me to deny the acceptance of failure,” Kelly said.
Giffords took the stage to join her husband, walking with a limp and showcasing a gigantic smile on her face. Again, she brought everyone to their feet and incited the loudest applause the conference has seen yet.
“Gabby has struggled with speech therapy,” Kelly explained. “She has difficulty with language because of her left side brain injury from the gunshot wound.” Kelly told a recent story of his own minor arm surgery due to a pole vaulting accident and how he was complaining at the breakfast table about it. Giffords, without missing a beat, he said, looked up from her breakfast and said, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”
“Hello everyone. Thank you for inviting me here today. It’s been a long hard haul but I’m getting better,” Giffords told the audience. “I am working hard. Lots of therapy. Speech therapy, physical therapy and yoga too. I’m still fighting to make the world a better place -- and you can too. Strong women get things done. Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best. Thank you very much.”
Giffords and Kelly are currently working on a book about gun control and have founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, which according to the website, is intended to be “a way to encourage elected officials to stand up for both the 2nd amendment and safer communities by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them.”