By Morgan Petronelli
What do a former congressional representative and an astronaut have in common? Gun violence.
On Feb. 15, former U.S. Rep Gabby Giffords and retired NASA astronaut and Navy combat veteran Mark Kelly will travel to Youngstown, Ohio to speak at the Youngstown State University Skeggs Lecture Series at 7 p.m. at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Giffords was a target of an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona at a Congress on Your Corner event in January 2011. She suffered a gunshot wound at point-blank range to her head. The gunman went on to kill six people at the event and injure 12 others.
She survived, but the traumatic event has left her with trouble controlling her arms and legs, speaking and hearing. Giffords subsequently stepped down from Congress.
In her biography on Giffords.org, Giffords says she is still a gun rights supporter and believes it is “the constitutional right of all Americans to safely and responsibly own firearms,” despite being a victim of gun violence.
After hearing about what happened to Giffords, Kelly rushed to be by his wife’s side. He went on to take part in his last launch as a NASA astronaut just a few weeks after the shooting, according to space.com.
Jackie LeViseur, director of university events at YSU, said the Skeggs Lecture Series board tries to keep the topics and speakers diverse.
Previous speakers include journalist Anderson Cooper, “The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood and Watergate whistleblower Bob Woodward.
“The board thought that Gabby and Mark had a really inspiring message and something that we haven’t had as part of a Skeggs Lecture Series before,” LeViseur said.
She said that YSU is about learning and sparking dialogue, and that’s what these lectures do.
“Even if you don’t know much about these speakers, you leave each event learning something new and that’s really what we’re about here at YSU,” LeViseur said.
LeViseur said people have the opportunity to see these experts and world-renowned speakers at no cost due to donations from the Skeggs family.
In fall 2018, the lecture series will feature actor, writer and political commentator Ben Stein.
There is no cost to attend the event, but tickets are required. Tickets can be reserved at the Stambaugh Auditorium box office or online at stambaughauditorium.com.