Celebrating Gabby Giffords' Incredible Resilience

Four years after Gabrielle Giffords was shot, President Barack Obama says she has "the same energy and passion that she always had." The President met with Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, in Phoenix on Thursday, The Associated Press reports. Obama called Giffords a hero, praising her fight against gun violence. He also recognized that Giffords has undertaken two extraordinary challenges at the same time: both working to recover personally and fighting to prevent the next tragedy. 

Obama's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett tweeted a photo of Kelly, Giffords and Obama together in Phoenix, quoting Obama at the meeting. 

Gabrielle Giffords has always been a go-getter. While attending Scripps College in Claremont, California, she rode motorcycles. Then she won a Fulbright and studied in Mexico before moving on to urban planning at Cornell. At age 26, she took over the Giffords family business, El Campo Tires, in Arizona. While she was a CEO, Giffords read about issues that affected her business and her community. She wanted to make a difference. 

She successfully ran for the Arizona Legislature then ran for U.S. Congress. Her motto in her first election was, “Change can’t wait.” She was re-elected twice, a clear rising star in the Democratic party. 

Then on January 8, 2011, when Giffords held an event in Tuscon, a gunman open fired on the crowd. Six people were killed, and Giffords was among the injured. She was shot in the head, suffering brain damage. As she rehabilitated, her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, kept a record of her progress. By August 2011, she made an appearance in Congress for a critical vote on the debt ceiling.

Though she resigned from Congress six months later, Giffords’ efforts to improve America haven’t wavered. Giffords and Kelly started Americans for Responsible Solutions, a nonprofit that promotes responsible gun ownership. In 2014, they published a book, “Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence.” 

In 2014, Giffords marked the third anniversary of the shooting with a skydive. Today, Gabby and Mark released a video statement to mark the founding of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Four years ago today, we lost members of our community to a senseless act of gun violence,” Mark began. “We lost friends,” Gabby added. The couple then spoke of the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and the progress their organization has made against gun violence so far. “Elected leaders are starting to realize that they don’t have to stand with the gun lobby, and that they can stand up for common sense,” Mark said. But there’s more to be done to protect Americans. Gabby closed the video, reaching out to supporters: “We need you more than ever.”

When asked what words describe her, Giffords told MAKERS she’s “optimistic and determined.” Giffords proves her strength and resilience on a daily basis; we can’t wait to see what she achieves in 2015. 

Featured image: Gabby Giffords plays Congressional softball in 2014 with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., left, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.