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Former Gabby Giffords Intern Shares Experiences with Campus Community

Daniel Hernandez addresses the audience in Hiller Auditorium.
Daniel Hernandez addresses the audience in Hiller Auditorium.

By Hinaa Noor, student journalist.

Daniel Hernandez, well-known as the intern credited with saving Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, as well as an author, speaker and activist spoke on Wednesday, October 16 at Penn State DuBois. People from the community, students and staff turned out to hear Hernandez’s speech in the Hiller Auditorium.  Hernandez talked about his career, life, his inspirations to help people and his devotion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues. Hernandez also talked about his experience of saving the congresswoman and about his book, They Call Me Hero.

Daniel Hernandez first talked about his career changes and his goal, which never changed since he was a child – to help and support people.

Hernandez said that he has been inspired to help people since the age of five. He explained an incident that took place when he was five years old and was taken to a hospital for a severe injury in the back of his head. During the incident, Hernandez said that he decided to be a doctor in order to help people. "Gabby would ask what do I want to be, and I would give the same answer since I was a kid – to be a doctor in order to be in service for people," Hernandez said. Hernandez, who was always involved in studies and craved knowledge as a student became interested in politics as a way of helping the community for a good cause.

After volunteering for Hillary Clinton in the race of 2008, Hernandez decided to join Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona. "I have always been inspired by strong women like Gabby and Mrs. Clinton," Hernandez said when he talked about his inspirations towards volunteering for political causes. He also talked about his experience working with Congresswoman Giffords. Daniel Hernandez quoted a phrase by Giffords during one of her losses in the election of 2008, saying, "Regardless of what happened tonight, it’s all about speaking up for people and being their voice."

The author of the book, They Call Me Hero also recalled the shooting in January, 2011 that motivated him to write his book. Hernandez talked about saving Congresswoman Giffords life and the people he lost in the massacre, including some of his very close friends. "I thought even with the limited training, I still had the potential to help people during that horrible situation," he said. "And I applied the small skills I was aware of through my training as a phlebotomist."

Daniel Hernandez also talked about his work and support for the LBGT. He encouraged the students of Penn State DuBois during his speech to become a voice for people who can’t speak up for themselves and to help their community.

After talking about his book, Hernandez answered some questions by the students, staff and the community. Hernandez also answered when asked about the association of the word "hero" with him. "I still don’t like it, however now I have come to terms to know why people call me a hero," Hernandez said.

Some of the students at Penn State DuBois also expressed their feelings towards Daniel Hernandez and his speech. "Daniel’s speech was very inspiring, and he had shown his passion for helping others since he was a child," Evan Aravich, junior at Penn State DuBois said. "Through the act of saving Gabby Giffords life, he does not believe that he is a hero, instead he was continuing to show his drive to assist her and others."

"Daniel taught me yesterday to stand up for myself and that I can achieve whatever I will put my mind to," sophomore, Darcie Grenier said.

Hernandez later enjoyed some spare time with students in the Union and signed their summer reading books. "I really enjoyed interacting with the students at Penn State DuBois and with the community," Hernandez said. It’s one of the nicest things, to team up with different communities to talk about certain issues and to help each other."

In addition to his speaking engagements, Hernandez also serves on his local school board in Sunny Side Arizona.

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