Saturday, April 13, 2013


U2 Performs the tune that Bono, 
friend of Gabby and Mark, 
dedicated to Gabby at the end of each concert
following the tragedy in Tucson.
Former U.S. Representative and Gun Control Advocate
Gabrielle Dee Giffords.

A bit less than a year ago Commander Mark Kelly answered three of my questions in front of a New Haven audience, and had one surprising answer about his own future career plans. He reported Gabby continues to improve, spoke of their relationship and afterwards we had a nice conversation
Former AZ US Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in a public district meeting with voters over on January 8, 2011 in a killing fest that killed 6 and injured 13. I had the chance to hear one half of an American couple I greatly admire, Mark Kelly (Gabby’s husband and a 4 time Space Shuttle veteran, including commanding the next to last Shuttle mission) speak at Southern CT State University on May 4th, 2012. I happen to believe that the enduring love affair between these two incredibly accomplished people, particularly since the Traumatic Brain Injury which compelled Gabby to step aside from her House seat and sit out this election (Mark indicated that she continued to make slow but very good medical strides) is one to be emulated. It seems as though their relationship has only grown stronger in spite of their travails since a fanatic carried out his mass murder, including a 9 year old girl, a staff member and friend of Gabby’s and a judge.
Mark Kelly in New Haven

After his inspirational speech about NASA, relationships and more, I asked in front of the audience of several hundred: “I’m going to try to compress several questions into one… Do you believe that, if her medical condition allows it, Gabby is interested in running for public office once again and would you ever consider a run for elective office yourself?” Captain Kelly indicated that Gabby IS interested in a future run but just ‘not this cycle’ (which I took as a VERY positive sign), and said, among other things regarding his own political future he “would never rule ANYTHING out.”
Mark Kelly in New Haven, note the brace on his arm
due to his prowess as a pole vaulter. 

Following the event, I had the chance to meet Mark, and I 1) Encouraged both he and Gabby to run in the future; 2) Told him that I admire their durability as a couple and congratulated him saying that I consider him a relationship expert; and 3) Gave him a personal note to Gabby in which I encouraged them both to consider replacing such Arizonans as Jan Brewer and John McCain, offered my thanks for her service and prayers for her recovery. Mark read the note at my request, and promised to hand it to Gabby personally. When I criticized some of the Arizona incumbents to him privately, he laughed with great fervor. The poor quality of the photos at the New Haven event is partly due to the fact that I could only use my poor quality cell phone camera. The brace he is sporting in these photos on his arm is due to a pole vaulting accident (his daughter is a pole vaulter, and apparently Commander Kelly is NOT at all).

I’ve checked into Mark Kelly’s positions on political matters prior to the couple’s foray into gun control advocacy with their founding of Americans for Responsible Solutions,, and it seems as though he is a bit to the left of the positions his wife took as a more or less conservative Democrat from a very conservative state while she served in the House. He supports investment in green technologies and jobs, he has advocated the election of other fairly progressive candidates, and he advocates policies to “strengthen Social Security and Medicare” on his Facebook page and is unimpressed with calls to change the COLA formula for Social Security. Gabby was asked by a CNN interviewer (Dana Bash) this week whether she would have been a supporter of the legislation before the Congress on gun control and she gave an emphatic “Yes!” even though she received high ratings from the NRA while in office. What matters is that both she and Kelly are now strong and effective advocates of background checks, an assault rifle ban and a ban on clips of 10 rounds or more so that slaughters as happened at Sandy Hook can’t be duplicated. 

I asked Captain Kelly how he felt about the news coverage of the Tucson massacre, and he said that as he was flying from TX to AZ he made the mistake of turning on the television, and saw erroneous reports of Gabby’s death, which obviously panicked him to no end. He was particularly livid at Fox News Channel and did not mince words about his angst at the right wing network.
Kelly is a great public speaker and had his audience riveted in New Haven. He spoke glowingly and lovingly of Gabby, calling her an overachiever, unlike himself he said, and proudly spoke of her as a Fulbright Scholar. He had the audience laughing with such comments as “Just think of how impressed the aliens were when I told them I had been to earth 4 times” referring to his 4 space flights. He spoke about his time as a pilot for the Navy during the fighting over Kuwait and the terrifying process of landing jets on aircraft carriers telling the audience that as he approached the deck at breakneck speeds “I’m not very good at this” and the audience loved it. He said taking off in a space shuttle is like being a “butterfly on a bullet.”  He clearly loved being in  front of the audience, was relaxed, adept, and completely unscripted except for a message he read that was composed for the talk by Gabby. Interestingly and significantly he began his talk by saying “He comes in peace” and he spoke about liberal activist and U2 front man Bono’s call to the couple two weeks after the shooting and their friendship. He was particularly touched that Bono’s band was ending each of their concerts by playing their tune “Beautiful Day” and dedicating it to Gabby. He said his desk was decorated with a photo of Gabby with Bono.

Whacko Tea Party nut AZ Governor Jan Brewer cannot run again and her office is available in 2014 and Kelly is in a good position to run and likely the only Democrat who would win that office and be able to turn the state around after being decimated with Brewer’s brew of idiotic policy for the past few years. Additionally there are 5 Republicans in the US House and only 3 Democrats, and Gabby’s replacement in the House in their current home district is a former staffer and friend who was injured in the Tucson shootings and who may not be interested in another run or who would want to defer to Kelly. Given Gabby’s frustrating expressive capabilities due to her injuries, it is not very likely she’ll be able to run for office soon. However, I can think of nobody better able and qualified to help turn the political landscape in Arizona (dominated by whackos like Brewer and McCain) than Commander Mark Kelly, and I urge him to run for Governor in 2014 [if not for the US House]! He certainly has my endorsement for whatever that is worth.

At the end of their remarkable book published in November 2011 entitled Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, is the one chapter written in Gabby’s voice rather than Mark’s. Some excerpts:
“Lots of people died. Six wonderful people. So many people hurt. Always connected to them.
Long ways to go. Grateful to survive. It’s frustrating. Mentally hard. Hard work. I’m trying. Trying hard to get better. Regain what I’ve lost. Want to speak better.”
“I will get stronger. I will return.”

I am absolutely delighted to report that her words in 2011 were prophetic. Former U.S. Representative turned gun control advocate Gabrielle Dee Giffords is most certainly stronger and has returned and more! Thank YOU Gabby and Mark!

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