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Gabrielle Giffords, joining Clintons for service event, says her ‘spirit’s as strong as ever’

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. (Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters)
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. (Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters)

PHOENIX – Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt, said her “spirit’s as strong as ever” as she joined the Clinton family here Sunday morning for a community service event.

Former president Bill Clinton, his daughter, Chelsea, and Giffords led a few hundred college students in converting a large vacant lot on the outskirts of downtown Phoenix into an urban garden and public recreational area. The “day of action” service project concluded this weekend’s Clinton Global Initiative University, a charitable gathering for young leaders held at Arizona State University in nearby Tempe.

Before he picked up a shovel to help students dig an irrigation ditch to plant a community garden, Bill Clinton said, “I feel like a kid who’s going to a carnival for the first time.”

Clinton, dressed casually in a grey T-shirt and jeans, told the students, “This day of action can remind you that everybody can serve everywhere and our diversity is our greatest strength.”

The Clintons were accompanied by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) – who declared the nation’s sixth-largest city “Clinton Country” for the day – as well as by Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Giffords, a Democrat who represented the Tucson area, showed that she continues to recover well from her January 2011 shooting. She walked onstage without any aid and gave a short speech to the students.

“It’s been a long, hard haul, but I’m getting better,” Giffords said. “I’m working hard, lots of therapy – speech therapy, physical therapy and yoga, too. But my spirit’s strong as ever. I’m still fighting to make the world a better place – and you can, too. Get involved with your community. Be a leader. Set an example. Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.”

Bill and Chelsea Clinton spent the morning visiting with students who went to work digging ditches, planting crops and painting murals. Chelsea dipped her right hand in beige paint and stamped her hand print on a mural depicting a tree of hands.

“We always think it’s important that we as a CGIU community make a commitment to ensure that we’re leaving behind the community that gave so much to us a little bit brighter, healthier or greener than when we first came,” she said.

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.



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