Gabrielle Giffords, former U.S. Representative from Arizona, and her husband Mark Kelly, a Navy pilot and NASA astronaut, will be this year’s speakers for the Class Day ceremonies at Harvard Law School. Class Day will take place on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.
Giffords served as U.S. Representative from Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from 2007 to 2012. She survived an assassination attempt in Tucson in 2011 while meeting with her constituents. The gun attack killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords, who sustained a gunshot wound to the head.
Despite her massive injuries and subsequent neurosurgeries, Giffords returned to the U.S. House less than seven months after the attack. She resigned her seat in 2012 to focus on her continued recovery. Upon stepping down, she announced, “I will return, and we will work for Arizona and this great country.”
Giffords was a Fulbright Scholar, and she holds a B.A. from Scripps College and a Master’s from Cornell University. Prior to becoming U.S. Representative, she served in Arizona House of Representatives and then the Arizona Senate, where she was the youngest woman elected to that body. Before entering government service, Giffords ran her family’s tire and automotive service.
Mark Kelly is an American astronaut, retired U.S. Navy Captain, #1 New York Times best-selling author, and an experienced naval aviator and test pilot who flew combat missions during the Gulf War. The winner of many awards, including the Legion of Merit, two Defense Superior Service Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, Kelly was selected as an astronaut in 1996. He flew his first of four missions in 2001 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, the same space shuttle that he commanded on its final flight in May 2011. He has also commanded Space Shuttle Discovery and is one of only two individuals who have visited the International Space Station on four different occasions.
Kelly is also an entrepreneur and is one of the founders of World View Enterprises, a company that is pioneering a new frontier at the edge of space. With 6,000 flight hours in more than 50 different aircraft, 375 aircraft carrier landings, 39 combat missions and more than 50 days in space, he is one of our country’s most experienced pilots.
The Harvard Commencement speaker will be Deval Patrick `82, who recently concluded two terms as the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Patrick came to Massachusetts at age 14, having won a scholarship to Milton Academy through the Boston-based organization A Better Chance. He earned admission to Harvard College, as the first in his family to attend college, and spent a year in Africa after graduation on a Rockefeller Fellowship before studying for his law degree at Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.
Early in his career, he served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Los Angeles, as a staff attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund working on voting rights and death-penalty cases, and then as a partner at the Boston law firm Hill & Barlow.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton named him assistant attorney general for civil rights, the nation’s top civil rights post. In that role, he led the Justice Department’s efforts in such areas as prosecuting hate crimes and enforcing laws on employment discrimination, fair lending, and rights for the disabled.
He went on to become the first chair of Texaco’s Equality and Fairness Task Force, and later served as a senior executive at Texaco and then at the Coca-Cola Co.