Astronaut Mark Kelly Tells AGS Conclave of Lessons Gained Through Trials

The human spirit is a powerful thing that helps us overcome even the worst trials, former Space Shuttle commander Mark E. Kelly told attendees at a breakfast presentation at the American Gem Society Conclave in Miami on April 26.

Capt. Kelly held the room spellbound as he recounted his time as an astronaut, a fighter pilot in the first Gulf War, and wife to Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, the former Congresswoman who was shot in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 8, 2011.

He noted the irony that, after so many dangerous experiences, his wife Gabby “was the one who would nearly lose her life serving her country,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it: How could Gabby—someone who was so passionate about public service and working so hard for her constituents and the nation—be shot?”

Kelly peppered his speech with insights from his experiences:

  • “I don’t like yes men or women. If you really think I am doing wrong, and you think I am making a bad decision, I like to hear about it.”
  • “There is never an excuse for not having timely and accurate communication with the people you work with.”
  • “If you don’t ask the junior person in the room what they think, you don’t always get the right answer. When you ask the manager, everybody tends to agree with them.”
  • “I truly believe that how good you are at the beginning of whatever it is you try is not a good indicator for what you can become.”
  •  He said his wife “teaches [him] every day to deny the existence of failure.”
  • “One of the things I have learned is gratitude. Not just gratitude about our careers, and our family, but gratitude for just being alive.”

He closed with a note from his wife, who used to regularly attend the Tucson gem shows: “Be passionate. Be courageous. Be strong. And be your best. Thank you and God bless America.”

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