Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly kicked off the Celebrity Forum Speakers Series Oct. 25 with a presentation that focused on working hard to make the world a better place.
In front of a packed house at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on the De Anza College campus, Giffords spoke a few words to the crowd after her husband spent more than an hour discussing his experiences as an astronaut.
“Gabby has difficulty with speech, so be patient with her,” Kelly advised.
Giffords continues to struggle with speaking and walking since she was shot in January 2011 in Arizona while meeting with constituents. Her right arm remains paralyzed from the bullet that went through her head. She undergoes speech and physical therapy to regain her faculties and continue serving the country.
After a short film clip, Kelly described his time aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station, one of only two individuals who has visited on four occasions.
While preparing to command Endeavour, Kelly received a call from Giffords’ chief of staff that his wife had been shot but learned no other details. He had a friend fly him to Tucson on a private plane and arrived four hours after the assassination attempt.
Kelly spoke of Giffords’ recovery and shared several of their experiences leading up to her surprise return to Washington to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling.
“After months of rancor and pettiness, one small woman brought Washington to their feet,” Kelly said.
Early in her recovery, Giffords had confidence that she would be able to travel to Cape Canaveral to witness the launch of her husband’s final shuttle mission, but it was canceled. After several launch delays, she was able to return to Kennedy Space Center for her husband’s May 2011 launch. Kelly wore his wife’s wedding ring into space and she wore his.
Near the end of the program, Giffords came onstage to hearty applause and a standing ovation.
“Thank you for inviting me. I am getting better and working hard to make the world a better place,” she said.
The “new Gabby” is tougher and stronger than before, according to Kelly.
“For the next five years, I just want to travel,” said Giffords, adding that she is optimistic they will sail around the world.
Kelly and Giffords held hands as they left the Flint Center stage. Giffords leaned over and touched the hands of people in the front row.
For information on upcoming speakers, visit celebrityforum.net.