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Gabby Giffords, the former U.S. congresswoman from Arizona, shared inspirational words on pushing for change and moving forward in “challenging times” on Wednesday at The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment breakfast gala, presented by Lifetime.
Former Hollywood executive and icon Sherry Lansing introduced Giffords, who received a standing ovation as she approached the stage. Lansing called Giffords an “extraordinary woman” as her mentor.
“This woman has shown me that whatever age we are, we can literally find someone to mentor us and inspire us to higher levels of awareness and action,” said Lansing, who was the first female head of a studio when she was named president of 20th Century Fox in 1980. The executive later ran Paramount for 12 years before stepping down to create a nonprofit foundation.
Giffords was the third woman in Arizona’s history to be elected to the U.S. Congress, where she served as a member of the House of Representatives from January 2007 to January 2012. Her time in office was cut short when she suffered a severe brain injury during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson.
“She reclaimed her life. But, equally remarkable is that, through it all, she never lost her positive attitude, her joy in living, her love of people, and, above all, her infectious smile,” Lancing added. “Over the past 10 years, she has turned this incredible tragedy into her mission, a mission to advocate for gun safety so that someday this senseless violence will finally end.”
Following a tough recovery and rehabilitation, she returned to politics for a short period before retiring. She continues to advocate for gun safety and created a nonprofit for gun violence prevention. Her journey also inspired Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s documentary feature Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down, which was released in July 2022. A clip was also shown at the event.
“I’m fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt. Setbacks are hard. But I tell myself: move ahead,” the retired congresswoman said during THR‘s Women in Entertainment event, which took place in-person at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles.
Giffords went on to use her own story and setbacks as an example to motivate others to look ahead and to find “joy in small things,” as she did.
“We are living in challenging times, but we are up for the challenge. My own recovery has taken years. Many, many people have helped me along the way and I’ve learned so much,” she told the attentive audience of A-list stars and leading women in entertainment. “I’ve learned when people care for each other and work together, progress is possible. A better world is possible.”
Giffords closed her remarks by saying, “Change doesn’t happen overnight … and we can’t do it alone. Join me — let’s move ahead together.”
The gala took place in conjunction with the publication of the Women in Entertainment Power 100 list. The gala was sponsored by Best Buy, Cadillac, Spotify, eOne, FIJI, Gersh and SAG-AFTRA and in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, Chapman University, College Access Partnership, and Loyola Marymount University.
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