‘Turning the Corner’

Gabby Giffords named Rose Parade grand marshal

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Former Arizona State Rep. Gabby Giffords was named the 2023 grand marshal by Tournament of Roses President Amy Wainscott. 

Giffords’ remarkable recovery from traumatic injuries epitomizes the 2023 theme, “Turning the Corner,” according to Wainscott.

The announcement was a celebratory event on the front steps of Tournament House in Pasadena, 80 days before the Rose Bowl Game and Rose Parade presented by Honda, both on January 2.

“It’s a tremendous honor to serve as the grand marshal of the 134th Rose Parade,” Giffords says in a statement.

“I love the theme of ‘Turning the Corner’ — the idea that we all can make a conscious decision to go in a different direction, toward something better. This philosophy of moving ahead is one that I’ve tried to embody both in my personal journey of recovery since being shot in 2011 and in the fight for gun violence prevention that has become my life’s work.” 

Wainscott says she is looking forward to hosting Giffords. 

“We are just over the moon thrilled to have Gabby as our grand marshal,” she says. 

“It all starts with our theme, ‘Turning the Corner,’ and I can’t think of anybody who is more of a hopeful, optimistic person that embodies that theme.”

There’s a second Tucson tie to this year’s parade. The Catalina Foothills High School marching band is going to participate in the parade. 

“It’s a great coincidence that we have the high school and Gabby Giffords in our parade,” Wainscott says. “They’re under the direction of Renee Shane Boyd, who is another incredible female.”

To choose Catalina Foothills, Wainscott traveled to Tucson in the spring. She also encourages the community to help fund the band’s trip to Pasadena. 

“We visit all of our bands and bring awareness to the community that they’ll be traveling to Pasadena,” she says. 

“They have to pay their way to get to Pasadena. We were there this spring, and we were able to visit with the students who are amazing musicians and the boosters, the administrators at the school and the community. (Artist) Diana Madaras had a fundraiser, and Gabby said she knew her. It all came full circle for us.”

Giffords was the youngest woman elected to the Arizona State Senate, representing the community in the Arizona Legislature from 2000 to 2005 and then in Congress from 2006 to 2012.

On January 8, 2011, at a “Congress on Your Corner” constituent event in Tucson, Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman who killed six people and injured 12 others. She stepped down from Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery. Giffords embarked on a path to regain her ability to speak and walk.

“The idea of ‘turning the corner’ also resonates from a national perspective,” Giffords says.

“Our country has faced multiple years of a deadly pandemic and political rancor. Yet medical advances and bipartisan compromise have helped us to take steps toward a better future, even if these steps aren’t always as quick or as sure as we would like them to be, but I’ve learned the importance of incremental progress — and that progress starts with having the courage to hope and then to act on that hope.” 

In 2013, after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, Giffords co-founded the organization now known as Giffords. 

During the past several years, the organization has made gun safety a kitchen table issue for voters. Giffords has worked hard to pass legislation in states across the country and at the federal level. This summer, Giffords was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” a documentary from the filmmakers behind “RBG,” premiered this year and is now available to stream at home on demand.

“I’m extremely grateful to follow in the footsteps of the many distinguished grand marshals in the parade’s history and to blaze my own path forward,” Giffords said.

“Thank you so much to Tournament of Roses President Amy Wainscott and to the board of directors for this privilege, and I look forward to being at the parade on January 2.”

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