You are the most curious and the most dedicated person I have ever met. In the last few years, you’ve continued to work relentlessly on your own recovery; dedicated yourself to the work of making the world a safer place; and been a loving and present wife, stepmother, sister, daughter and friend. You’re even taking Spanish lessons and playing your French horn again. I’ve come to see that learning new things and pushing yourself to be open to new experiences isn’t something you do out of a sense of obligation. It’s clear to me that this attitude is a powerful source of joy, motivation, and energy for you.
I think part of the wonder and joy of a partnership like ours is that nothing is ever static. Our lives have changed in ways we never could have imagined but what hasn’t changed is how you inspire me. I couldn’t have run for office if I didn’t have the example of your service and leadership to guide me. And then the pandemic hit. But just like you always do, you looked a challenge in the face and decided to keep moving—to find joy, to embrace your purpose, to keep working. You confronted the unknown, as you’ve done before, and reached into that vast reservoir of determination and generosity once again.
Watching other people value that determination and inspiration has become a lovely, if unexpected, part of our life together. I’ve watched you accept the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and Glamour’s Woman of the Year Award. I’ve even seen a Navy combat ship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, be christened in your honor. Every year EMILY’s List, a group that helped you run for office, gives an award called the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star award to a woman in local office—someone whose smarts, dedication, and accomplishment recall yours. The first recipient was Stacey Abrams. When they call your name from the stage, Gabby, I’m telling you, it’s like the world tilts on its axis. Every time, the room rises to its feet and roars “Gabby! Gabby!”
It fills me with pride to know that the person who shapes my life is such an important part of so many other lives. It is a reminder that you’re making history. I admire your commitment to service, before and after a tragedy changed your life, your humanity and empathy—the way you connect with everyone in the room. And your determination: your relentless pursuit of new adventures, progress, a better world. Your beauty and your joyfulness.
Gabby, I still remember the first time you took me to Bisbee, AZ, an old mining town south of Tucson near the Mexican border and one of your favorite places. We got south of Tombstone and the sky just opened up in front of us. It felt as big and vast as what I’d seen out the window of the space shuttle. In Bisbee, you had friends to see—like your friend who roasts his own beans at Bisbee Roasters, and the other who runs Café Roka. Making that drive together to Bisbee, with your favorite band Calexico’s song “Bisbee Blue” playing in the car, is one of my favorite things to do together. The road ahead, the sky limitless in front of us, Calexico singing “days with you, Bisbee Blue, shining like Bisbee blue, bring me back Bisbee blue.”
With you, Gabby, there’s always adventure to be had, beauty to be seen, change to be made, and joy to be found.
United States Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) is a Navy combat veteran and a retired NASA astronaut. He and Gabby Giffords were married in 2007.