Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly will speak at Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum

The headliners of the Eighth annual Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum will be former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle D. “Gabby” Giffords and her husband, former space shuttle Commander Mark Kelly. The forum is hosted by Columbus State University’s Cunningham Center-based Leadership Institute, and is scheduled for Aug. 26-27 in the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Giffords was seriously injured when a gunman opened fired at a Tucson shopping center where she was meeting constituents. Six people were killed and 13 injured. Giffords, a Democrat, began serving Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2006 and was re-elected twice, in 2008 and 2010. She sustained a gunshot wound to the head. Less than seven months later, she returned to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. She later resigned her seat to focus on her recovery.

Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy captain, was selected as an astronaut in 1996. He flew four missions and is one of just two people who have visited the International Space Station four times. He is also a best-selling author, prostate cancer survivor and an experienced naval aviator who flew combat missions during the Gulf War, winning the Legion of Merit, two Defense Superior Service Medals and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. Kelly commanded the space shuttle Endeavor on its final flight in May 2011. “As a family, they have modeled the kind of leadership for how one deals with tragedy, and they did it on an international stage,” said Ed Helton, interim executive director of the Cunningham Center, in a release. “We are honored to have them here to share their story with us and to learn what we are sure will be invaluable lessons.”

Other speakers include Seth Godin, considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on online marketing; Tom Mullins, founding pastor of one of the nation’s largest churches, the non-denominational Christ Fellowship, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; David Novak, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc., which operates or licenses Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and other restaurants worldwide; John Stankey, group president and chief strategy officer of AT&T Inc.; Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co. and Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning.

Registration for the full conference is $429. Tickets for tables of eight are $3,400. About a fourth of the tickets for the event have already been sold as individuals and companies register daily.

For more information and to register, visit www.jimblanchardleadershipforum.com or call Helton at 706-568-5133.