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Mark Kelly gives speech at UT Arlington

Mark Kelly, a retired American astronaut encouraged University of Texas at Arlington students to follow their dreams by sharing his most daunting challenges and how he overcame them during his speech in Texas Hall, February 19, 2013.

Kelly begins his speech with his core belief of hard work. He described his mother as a “five-foot, one hundred pound waitress,” who decided to become a police officer in New York City at a time where there were very few women in the force. Kelly watched as his mother gain the strength to climb a 6-foot wall to pass the police exam.

“At that point, I believed that I could accomplish anything and decided that I would be the first man on Mars,” said speaker, Mark Kelly.

Upon graduation in 1986, Kelly started flight school. He described his skills as less than exemplary, even stating that his lieutenant discouraged him from pursuing this dream. In 1991, Kelly flew his first combat mission. This experience prepared him further for his dream of becoming an astronaut, he said during the UTA event.

“Mark Kelly gave me the motivation to believe that my high goals in life can come true with hard work,” said Alexis Anderson, UTA student.

Kelly had the chance to go to space four times in his lifetime, which he said much of that was due from the support of his wife, Gabrielle “Gabby” Gifford, a former U.S. Congresswoman and she also controlled NASA’s budget.

“Gabby was perfect at NASA because she never neglected the details,” Kelly said. “As you may guess, a neglected detail at NASA could be lethal.”

Kelly was met with his most challenging struggle yet, he told the audience. On January 8, 2011, his wife was the victim of an attempted assassination in Tucson, Az, in which she was shot in the head. Gifford was rushed into immediate surgery while Kelly and their children were on a plane from Houston.

Kelly had to make the decision to withdraw himself from his last space mission while his wife was in a coma. A week later her condition improved, and they moved Gifford to Houston for therapy.

After a month of recovery, Kelly decided it was time to go back to NASA, he said to the crowd.

Kelly and his wife to this day still struggle, but have made great strides. Kelly said he is amazed by his wife’s strength and determination.

At the end of his speech, Kelly passed along a message Gifford wanted him to tell the audience for encouragement, “Be passionate, be courageous, be strong, be your best.”

Sources:

  • Astronaut speaker Mark Kelly
  • Graduate student Alexis Anderson
    • 817-821-7772
    • Alexis.anderson@mavs.uta.edu

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