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Gabby Giffords Receives Dual Honors

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt that left her with a severe brain injury, and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, were honored at the 2017 National Dialogue Institute’s awards dinner at the National Press Club on Thursday.

But the honors didn’t stop there.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to name the Democratic cloakroom after Giffords and former Rep. Leo J. Ryan, who was killed in 1978 during the Jonestown massacre.

Neshan H. Naltchayan
Neshan H. Naltchayan

So now, lawmakers who want to chat outside the House floor will do so in the “Gabrielle Giffords-Leo J. Ryan Cloakroom.”

Since the 2011 shooting, Giffords and her husband have created an organization that deals with gun control. “I am a gun owner myself,” he said …but we must keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.”

At the NPC dinner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in presenting the key 2017 National Dialogue Award to Giffords and Capt. Kelly, said of each of the honorees that they “… have all done exemplary work to build bridges of understanding between people and nations.” In her emotional talk, Pelosi told of how former Vice President Joe Biden insisted on travelling to The Hill to help honor Giffords during the naming of the Democrats’ cloakroom.

Honorees included:

· Businessman Rafat Mahmood and his wife Shaista Mahmood. The Alexandria, Va., couple received the National Dialogue Peacemaker Award “recognizing their …work building bridges and understanding between those of different religious, cultural and economic backgrounds.” Virginia Congressman James P. Moran presented the award, saying “Ray and Shaista Mahmood have devoted themselves to ecumenical cooperation in addressing the conditions of poverty, oppression of women and sectarian conflict throughout the world.”

· Goodwill ambassador for UNESCO Esther Coopersmith. She received the National Dialogue’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She also is a political activist and a mover in the social scene. Dr. Susan Blumenthal, the gala’s honorary chair, presented the award to Kalorama resident Coopersmith, known as one of Washington’s “grand dames” and hostesses. In her remarks, Blumenthal jokingly said she likes to refer to her as “Queen Coopersmith” since she rules in so many levels in the art of networking in the U.S. and around the world.

The Sustained Dialogue Institute, led by The Rev. Mark Farr, helps citizens throughout the globe to “transform their conflictual and destructive relationship, and to design and implement sustainable change processes,” according to its press information.

Neshan H. Naltchayan
Neshan H. Naltchayan

The Institute’s honors memorialized Hal Saunders, SDI’s founder and an architect of President Jimmy Carter’s Camp David Peace Accord between Israel and its neighbors.

Among the 200 guests were ambassadors from Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Armenia, and the European Union, as well as Susan E. Carmel Lehrman of the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture and History at American University; and Michelle Cross Fenty, former first lady of D.C. in the Mayor Fenty Administration. Now living in DC again, Michelle is a partner in Parsan Cross, branded as a global strategic advisory firm. She has served as country representative for Trinidad and Tobago and private sector adviser for the Inter-American Development Bank.