Thursday, April 12, 2012

Astronaut Mark Kelly talks to Charlotte audience about space, wife Gabrielle Giffords, and perseverance

Astronaut Mark Kelly -- who became the center of international attention when his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head during a 2011 assassination attempt -- was the keynote speaker at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Foundation's annual luncheon.

The foundation raises money to fund police needs not included in the city's budget.

In remarks at the Westin Hotel that lasted about 45 minutes, Kelly touched on a number of subjects, from his wife's obsession with U2 lead singer Bono to the unpredictability of life.

On his wife: "She's doing well, she's in a good mood." He said Giffords goes through about six hours of physical therapy five days a week, and puts in extra work on weekends. At some point, Kelly said, Giffords plans to continue in public service, although they're not sure in what capacity.

He said the couple has been invited to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September. She's capable of traveling, but the family doesn't know whether the convention will conflict with her rehabilitation schedule.

He said the shooting brought his family face-to-face with the unpredictability of life. "I'd flown into space and I'd flown 35 combat missions, but Gabby almost lost her life just doing her job," he said. "It's important for everyone to understand things can change for us in an instant."

On his arm: Kelly was wearing a sophisticated brace to immobilize his right arm. He said he had torn his bicep while using some of his daughter's pole-vaulting equipment. Kelly said he had pole-vaulted in high school. "I was telling my wife about how much my arm hurt," Kelly said. "She looked up from her fruit and yogurt and said 'You've gotta be kidding me.'"

Perseverance: The accomplished astronaut said at first he was a horrible pilot. When he first landed on an aircraft carrier, his instructor said "Are you sure this is for you?"

"How good you do at the beginning of anything you try is not an indication of how good you'll be if you don't give up," Kelly said.

Kelly said his wife teaches him lessons on perseverance. "She tells me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure," he said. "This woman will not give up."

The final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavor: Kelly was scheduled to command the final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavor before Giffords was shot. "This was going to be the pinnacle of my career, and I told my boss, you've gotta replace me," he said. Giffords was ultimately moved to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, which allowed Kelly to continue training. "This was a controversial decision for me," he said. On the day Endeavor touched down, Kelly said, Giffords wasn't there as she usually was because she was having surgery.

-Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
Twitter: @CleveWootson


  1. Loved the quote about perseverance. I'm going to print it and put it on my wall in my classroom. I wish I could have heard him in person, we need more inspirational role models for our children.

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