Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a deadly mass shooting in January 2011, was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award on May 5, at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.
Since resigning from Congress to focus on her recovery, Giffords has become a leading voice in the charge for gun control. She and her husband, former space shuttle commander Mark Kelly, are the founders of the political action committee Americans for Responsible Solutions.
The award, named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage, has been given annually since 1990. Caroline Kennedy, who is president of the Kennedy Library Foundation, presented Giffords with the award. She spoke of the pain that gun violence has brought to so many families, including her own with the assassinations of her father and her uncle Robert Kennedy.
“Our family is still suffering from the heartbreak of gun violence. No one should have to lose a husband, a wife, a father, a child to senseless murder,” she said. “But as [Gabrielle Giffords] has shown, out of that pain and tragedy, we must find the strength to carry on, to give meaning to our lives, and to build a more just and peaceful world.
“Gabrielle has turned a personal nightmare into a movement for political change. After an assassination attempt ended her congressional career and left her with grave injuries, she fearlessly returned to public life as an advocate for new legislation to prevent gun violence.”
Kelly helped Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries, accept the award.
“The determination and the valor my wife shows every single day has re-defined the word courage for me,” he said. “We know how violence changes lives.”
Taking the microphone at the end of Kelly’s speech, Giffords called for more courage in Congress, where a measure for universal background checks on gun purchases recently failed to pass, despite widespread support in polls. “I believe we all have courage inside, I wish there was more courage in Congress. Sometimes it’s hard to express it, I know.” She added, “It’s been a hard two years for me, but I want to make the world a better place.”
Earlier in the day, Giffords and Kelly spent time with victims of the Boston Marathon bombings at Spaulding Rehab-ilitation Center.
Caroline Kennedy also paid a special tribute to the first responders and citizens of Boston – as she described them, “the men and women who illuminated a path to hope when this city was gripped by fear.”