Courage comes in many guises. In Boston on Sunday, Gabrielle Giffords was praised for having the courage just to carry on.
“It’s been a hard two years for me, but I want to make the world a better place,” said Giffords in receiving the 2013 Profile in Courage award at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The former Arizona congresswoman’s appearance came three weeks after bombs killed three people and wounded 260 at the Boston Marathon. Before Sunday’s ceremony, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, visited bombing survivors in the hospital.
“We’re so sorry for the violence and terror all of you have endured. We know what that was like,” said Kelly. As has been his custom, he spoke at length on behalf of his wife, who still struggles with speech and kept her remarks brief.
“We know how violence changes lives,” Kelly said, adding that for those touched by violence, no matter what it’s called — terrorism, war — “violence simply brutalizes.”
The Profile in Courage award is typically given to public figures who have demonstrated outstanding political courage — often intersecting with physical danger.
In 2011, in the face of widespread government brutality in Egypt, Wael Ghonim, a Google executive, won for starting a Facebook page that helped galvanize a revolution.
In 2005, Viktor Yushchenko won the award after a disfiguring poison attack failed to prevent him from winning the Ukrainian presidency.
Giffords survived being shot in the head during a 2011 rampage in Tucson that left six dead and 12 others wounded. She resigned from Congress a year later but has returned to public life as one of the nation’s top gun control proponents and as a symbol of survival and recovery.
She and Kelly established a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, that campaigned for universal background checks on gun purchases. The U.S. Senate failed to pass the measure, which was widely supported in polls but much less popular on Capitol Hill.
“We all have courage inside,” Giffords said. “I wish there was courage in Congress.”
Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, praised Giffords at the ceremony, saying that “our family is still suffering from the heartbreak of gun violence” and that Giffords “has turned a personal nightmare into a movement for change.”
“When others would have withdrawn from public life, she’s challenged us all to re-engage in the political process,” Kennedy said.
President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and his brother Robert was assassinated in 1968, just after he’d won the California Democratic presidential primary.