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Giffords makes rare public appearance to accept award

Former U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in a January 2012 picture.
Former U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in a January 2012 picture.Matt York / AP file

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords made a rare public appearance Tuesday night to accept the “We Are EMILY Award” from Emily’s List, a political advocacy organization that supports pro-choice women seeking office.

“Gabby’s unimaginable courage has been an inspiration to everyone in this room tonight,” said Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

While Giffords did not personally accept the award, her mother, Gloria Giffords, accepted and spoke on her behalf. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Gabby’s attendance at the event was a testament of how much Emily’s list has meant to her.

Wasserman Schultz nodded at Giffords as she told the crowd, “This is an incredibly well deserved honor.”

During the presentation, Giffords smiled as she sat onstage flanked by her mother and good friend, Wasserman Schultz. Speaking before the hundreds in attendance, Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., summed up the former Congresswomen’s impact in Washington.

“She spoke out courageously and quickly distinguished herself as a shining star who embodies the best of public service,” she said noting that her time in public service was far from over.

The yearly Emily's List award is given to recognize women who have changed the face of political power and provided leadership and inspiration.

The former Congresswoman’s mom said her daughter has been a constant source of inspiration during her recovery from an assassination attempt in Jan. 2011 in which Giffords’ was shot in the head.

Giffords mom took the podium on behalf of the former congresswoman and quickly addressed her role of accepting the award for her daughter.

“Obviously the ideal situation isn’t for me to be up here accepting this award on behalf of Gabby, but life’s not perfect.”

As the former Congresswoman’s mom reached the “self-sacrifice” part of Gifford’s message during her speech, she struggled to hold back tears. Gloria spoke of her daughter’s determination, saying “she’s working tirelessly on her recovery.”

Emily's List also used the event to unvail an award named in Giffords' honor: the “Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star” award.

Emily’s List states the award will “honor women who demonstrate the sort of commitment to community, dedication to women and families and determination and civility that have been the highlights of Giffords’ career."

Gloria said the former Congresswoman is “especially touched and honored” by the award. Before leaving the podium Gloria leaned in and offered hope to the crowd on behalf of her daughter.

Giffords’ mom said she is striving for a full recovery and her future remains very bright.

“She’ll be back fighting alongside of you,” she said.