Gabrielle Giffords

Mark Kelly, NASA astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, center, speaks at a reception after his “Endeavour to Succeed” lecture presented at the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium Monday evening. The event was hosted by UT’s Student Endowed Centennial Lectureship under chairman Michael Morton and vice chairman Jesse Hernandez, pictured to Kelly’s left and right side, respectively.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Students who want to become effective leaders need to have a drive to succeed and the ability to overcome hardship, said renowned former American astronaut and United States Navy Capt. Mark Kelly in a lecture Monday evening.

Kelly is a noted American astronaut and naval aviator who retired in June 2011. He is well known for having commanded several shuttle missions, including Space Shuttles Endeavour and Discovery, and has the distinction of being one of only two people in the world to have visited the International Space Station four times. He is the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was the victim of an assassination attempt in January 2011, leaving her in recovery for more than eight months. UT is the first University in Texas to host Kelly as a speaker.

Kelly gave a lecture titled “Endeavour to Succeed” as part of the Student Endowed Centennial Lectureship, which brings prominent speakers to the University each year and is funded by students through an optional $2 donation during the registration process.

Kelly spoke about his early struggles in flight school and said he refused to let his failure to excel allow him to falter in achieving his ultimate goal of becoming an astronaut. Kelly said his drive to succeed was the key to his accomplishments later in life.

“I was not a particularly good pilot,” Kelly said. “I really, really struggled and had a hard time with learning how to fly an airplane. But I stuck with it, and later realized that how good you are at the beginning of anything you try is not a good indicator of how good you can become. I’m a prime example of someone who was able to overcome a lack of aptitude with practice, persistence and the drive to never ever give up.”

Kelly spoke about his family’s experiences during his wife’s recovery after she was shot in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords suffered a bullet wound to the head and had to undergo several surgeries as well as months of physical therapy before being able to return to Washington, Kelly said. He said his wife’s dedication to her recovery was an enormous inspiration.

“It’s been an incredible experience for me over the last four months to see the power of the human spirit — to see someone who was first able to fight so hard to survive, and then to fight so hard to recover.” Kelly said. “She reminds me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure.”

Kelly’s experiences with overcoming difficulty in his own career as well as facing adversity during Giffords’ recovery made him a perfect candidate to reach out to students, said Michael Morton, chair of the Student Endowed Centennial Lectureship.

“He’s a great example of leadership in America today and he’s a name that people recognize,” Morton said. “He can really speak to various levels of leadership and how to deal with different issues in your life.”

Students are more than capable of having the drive and energy necessary to becoming effective decision-makers and leaders with enough time and patience, Kelly said.

“I think that it’s possible to learn [how to be a leader],” he said, “There’s a whole field of study about decision-making and about leadership, so it takes time and it takes practice.”

Kelly’s lecture was an inspiration to those in attendance and proved that failing the first time doesn’t mean they should stop trying, said aerospace engineering freshman Madison Lasris.

“He really proved that you can overcome any obstacle, no matter how bad it is,” Lasris said. “Even if you fail, you can still achieve what you want to do.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: Astronaut gives inspiration

TUCSON, Ariz. — A federal judge will allow prosecutors to see most of a prison psychologist's personal notes pertaining to the suspect in the Tucson shooting that wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Jared Lee Loughner's lawyers wanted to withhold from prosecutors 62 pages of notes that Dr. Christina Pietz made during Loughner's previous four-month restoration commitment at a Missouri prison facility.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled Thursday that a few pages of Pietz's notes from conversations with defense counsel will be redacted, but the remainder will be given to prosecutors.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the January 2011 shooting that killed six people and left 13 wounded, including Giffords, who was shot in the head.

Giffords resigned from Congress last month to focus on her recovery.

On Jan. 2, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords reacts after leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a memorial remembering the victims and survivors of the shooting that killed six others in Tucson, Ariz.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

PHOENIX — In part, the short video has the feel of a campaign ad: the strains of soft music, the iconic snapshots of rugged Arizona desert, the candidate earnestly engaged with her constituents.

Interspersed with the slick montage of photos and sound, though, is a video close-up of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gazing directly at the camera, offering not a campaign promise but a goodbye, a thank-you message to her supporters in a voice that is both firm and halting.

“I have more work to do on my recovery,” the congresswoman says at the end of the two-minute-long “A Message from Gabby,” appearing to strain with all of her will to communicate. “So to do what’s best for Arizona, I will step down this week.”

Arizonans had to know in their hearts that this day was coming.

A bullet to the brain, from point-blank range, is a nearly impossible obstacle to overcome, even for a congresswoman known for pluckiness and fight. Giffords seemed to accept that reality in the video announcing her resignation from Congress, which also included a promise to return one day to her mission to help Arizonans.

The clip, posted to YouTube and on her Facebook page, pastes together 13 sentences into a fluid announcement. Giffords wears a bright red jacket eerily similar to the one she was wearing a year ago when she was nearly assassinated. She looks straight into the camera, almost begging the viewer to listen.

But the video also includes images of the 41-year-old struggling at rehab and walking along a leafy street with husband Mark Kelly with an obvious limp. And Giffords acknowledges that, at least for now, she isn’t up to taking on a re-election challenge.

The announcement sets off not one but two elections cycles to replace her. The first will be a special primary election that Gov. Jan Brewer must call sometime in April, with a general election in June to fill out the remainder of Giffords’ term.

The second cycle will concern the regular full two-year term, with the primary scheduled for August and the general election in November.

In between, the 8th Congressional District that Giffords currently represents will change under redistricting. It will become the 2nd Congressional District.

“We’ve got someone that’s going to move in, hold that seat for the remainder of her (term,) and then we’ll have people out there — probably at the same time — running for that seat ... with different lines,” Gov. Jan Brewer said Sunday. “So it will confuse some people.”

Brewer said she spoke with Kelly before the announcement and understood the decision. “...As her husband said, they have sat, and they have discussed this, and that it would be the best thing for her and for her recovery,” Brewer said. “And I indicated on the telephone with him that knowing Gabby and what she has accomplished in this last year in her recovery, who knows what’s going to happen in the next two years.”

The announcement came just over a year after a gunman opened fire at Jan. 8, 2011, meeting with constituents in front of a Tucson grocery store. Six people were killed, and Giffords and 12 others wounded.

At the time, the Democrat had just eked out a razor-thin victory against a tea party candidate in her conservative-leaning district. She won a third term with less than 1 percent margin.

Many in Arizona believed she would be handed an easy victory if she chose to seek another term this year. But Giffords elected not to try.

“A lot has happened over the past year. We cannot change that,” she said.

For days after the shooting, it was touch and go. A huge memorial grew in front of the Tucson hospital where she was fighting for her life.

Then, almost miraculously, just two weeks after she was shot, she was whisked off in a jet to a rehabilitation hospital in her astronaut husband’s hometown of Houston.

Months of rehab began, with Giffords struggling to learn how to walk and talk again. Just over four months after she was shot, she flew to Florida to watch Kelly, an astronaut, pilot the nation’s next-to-last space shuttle mission.

But she remained out of view.

Slowly, in carefully choreographed bits, she began to emerge. The first photos in June. Her surprise August appearance in Congress to vote to raise the federal debt limit. The first halting TV shots, just a few words at a time, then a more complex recording released in November.

Sunday’s recording was slightly more elaborate, but it was not a campaign Q&A or an appearance before a tough interviewer.

She’s clearly not yet ready for another run for Congress. But she said in Sunday’s video that she’s not done yet.

“I’m getting better. Every day my spirit is high. I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country,” she said.

TUCSON, Ariz. — U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has returned to Houston following a brief weekend visit to Arizona.

She arrived in Tucson Friday evening with her husband, retired astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly. Her spokesman, Mark Kimble, confirmed to The Associated Press Monday afternoon the Arizona lawmaker departed Monday.

Kimble called the weekend trip very uneventful for Giffords as she continues to recover from a head wound suffered Jan. 8 when a gunman opened fire outside a Tucson-area grocery store while meeting constituents.

It was her second trip to Arizona since being discharged from a Houston rehab hospital in June.


Rep. Gliffords returns to Houston after brief visit to Arizona

Space shuttle Endeavour crew members from l

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

HOUSTON — The final crew of the space shuttle Endeavour returned home Thursday to Houston, where they thanked colleagues and reunited with families. But Mark Kelly had to wait just a bit longer for his special reunion.

The Endeavour commander delayed his planned rendezvous with his wife, wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, until later Thursday evening. He and the rest of the crew first spoke to a cheering crowd of hundreds of co-workers, family members and fans welcoming them back to Texas.

Giffords didn't attend the public event Thursday afternoon at Houston's Ellington Field, so Kelly headed to see her afterward in her Houston rehabilitation center.

It was an emotional curtain call for the next-to-last shuttle flight, with the tired crew of six providing extended autograph time for the crowd.

While the crew singled out individual workers and departments at Johnson Space Center, they emphasized the sacrifices of their loved ones, most of whom they haven't seen since May 15 — the day before Endeavour launched.

"I want to thank my family — Gabby who is not here today — Claudia and Claire who are here in the front row," Kelly said, referring to his wife and daughters. "I could not do it without their support."

Endeavour astronaut Drew Feustel added a special note to his wife, Indira: "Honey, happy anniversary today."

And the astronauts also praised the ship that will no longer be flying. After 19 years and 25 flights, "Endeavour performed as if it was brand new," Kelly said.

"It's not the end of Endeavour either," Kelly said. He said Endeavour will continue to inspire young people to study science and engineering at its new post at a Los Angeles museum.

And future spaceships will learn from the space shuttle fleet, which is retiring after the scheduled July 8 launch of Atlantis, said Endeavour astronaut Roberto Vittori.

Endeavour landed early Wednesday morning in Cape Canaveral to end a 16-day mission to the International Space Station. Kelly called Giffords almost daily via telephone, and had one video hookup during the mission, said Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin.

Giffords, who was shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz. in January, left rehab in Houston to be at Endeavour's May launch.

Johnson Space Center Director Mike Coats, a former astronaut, praised Kelly for the way he compartmentalizes family and NASA duties, like most astronauts: "He's probably had a bigger challenge than most. He did a terrific job."