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Gabby Giffords begins her Rose Parade ride as grand marshal

With an uproar of applause and greetings from adoring Rose spectators Monday morning, Gabby Giffords has begun her ride down Colorado Boulevard, her smile beaming, her hands waving, her message clear: One can turn a corner in life, just like the theme of the 134th Rose Parade.

Giffords, 52, the grand marshal of the Parade, is accompanied by her husband, Mark Kelley as they ride as the 14th entry in the spectacle – along the 5.5-mile route.

Giffords is the embodiment of the Rose Parade’s theme this year, “Turning the Corner.”

Read more Rose Parade coverage here.

The former Arizona congresswoman – she was the youngest woman elected to the Arizona State Senate and a congresswoman from 2006 to 2012 — has forged new paths in life after on Jan. 8, 2011, she was shot in the head by a gunman who ultimately killed six people and injured 12 others.

“Turning the corner” resonates deeply with me,” she told the Star-News ahead of the parade. “I’ve tried to embody the philosophy of moving ahead since I began my recovery nearly 12 years ago after being shot. I’ve also adopted this mantra in the fight for gun violence prevention that has become my life’s work.”

It’s advocacy work that resonated with the Tournament of Roses Association in ultimately announcing her as grand marshal on Oct. 13 with a festive ceremony on the steps of Pasadena’s famed Tournament House with dozens in attendance.

Because of her injuries, Giffords now struggles to speak, but it was clear on Monday morning, she doesn’t struggle to convey a message, for which she is a top advocate.

Giffords was smiling and blowing kisses as she rode Colorado with her family, the crowd cheering.

Her husband, Kelley, who now is a U.S. senator from Arizona, said while she  is  “coping with a constant frustration that the rest of us can’t fathom, I still know what she’s thinking much of the time,” he wrote in their book, “Gabby, A Story of Courage and Hope.” “Yes, her words come haltingly or imperfectly or not at all, but I can still read her body language. I still know the nuances of that special smile of hers. She’s still contagiously animated and usually upbeat, using her one good hand for emphasis. And she still knows what I’m thinking, too.”

It was all on display on Monday morning, against the backdrop of a global audience and thousands along the parade route in Pasadena.

“There’s so much I’m looking forward to: the high school bands, especially the Catalina Foothills Marching Band from Tucson,” Giffords said. “I recently visited them to wish them well, which was a lot of fun.

“I play the French Horn, and music has been a big part of my own recovery. I also grew up riding horses—I even brought my horse Buckstretcher to Scripps!—and so am very excited for the equestrian teams. I’ve been trying to get plenty of rest before the big day, and I’ve been practicing my coin toss for the game. I love meeting new people, and I can’t wait to celebrate the new year with so many friends new and old.

More fast facts on Gabby Giffords:

Second cousin to Gwyneth Paltrow (Bruce Paltrow, Gwyneth’s dad, is first cousin to Gabby Giffords’ dad)
Astronaut husband Mark Kelly; they met in 2003 in China, during a young leaders forum
Early date: hiked in Grand Canyon, “she laughed at my jokes”
They married 11/10/07 at an organic produce farm in Amado, Arizona, she wore a recycled Vera Wang gown and they used biodegradable décor
Glamour Woman of the Year, Glamour Couple of the Year 2013

This is a developing story. More to come.

Related links

Rose Parade 2023: How to ‘Turn the Corner,’ literally and figuratively
Why this 80-year-old South Pasadena woman keeps scooping up horse poop at the Rose Parade
Gabby Giffords named Rose Parade grand marshal
Many factors go into Rose Parade lineup

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