Gabrielle Giffords' intern savior Daniel Hernandez takes a Houston Victory lap
It was the Victory Fund, an organization that works to elect LGBT leaders to public office, that helped propel Mayor Annise Parker to her current post as head of Houston. Now celebrating its 20th year, the organization held a celebratory champagne brunch in the hallowed halls of The Corinthian downtown on Sunday.
Serving as event honoree was Daniel Hernandez, Jr., the lauded intern to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who ran to the congreswoman's side after she fell from a gunshot to the head during the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson.
Introducing Hernandez at Sunday's event was Christine Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council and prospective candidate for New York City mayor. Also offering celebratory addresses were Mayor Annise Parker and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.
The modest, 21-year-old Hernandez, whose previous experience includes volunteering for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, claims his race to Giffords' collapsed body was an automatic reaction, not an act of bravery. Calling upon skills learned during a certified nurses' assisting program, he prevented Giffords from choking on her own blood while stanching the bleeding with his hand. The intern held his mentor's hand and told her that he would get ahold of her family.
"People have stopped me on the street," he told CultureMap of his new hero status. Nevertheless, he's not letting the fanfare detract from his goals as a junior at the University of Arizona.
Because of his compact schedule in Houston, Hernandez did not make it by to visit Giffords at TIRR Memorial Hermann, He left the brunch directly for the airport to return to Tucson and prepare for an election on Thursday, where he is running for student body president.
More than an ambitious intern with a knack for first aid, Hernandez works actively as an advocate for higher education in his home state. "I've lived in Arizona my whole life, so I'm kind of used to working in that red state system," he said.
While not studying, interning or campaigning for the student government, Hernandez works with the non-profit Arizona Students' Association, rallying support for higher education.
"I'm up at the state capitol interacting with legislators on a pretty regular basis, so I can work on issues that may not get a lot of traction in the red state of Arizona, such as the importance of investing in higher education," Hernandez said.
Confronted with countless requests for public appearances, Hernandez has quickly learned how to pick and choose which events to attend.
I want to make sure the only ones I do are things that I believe in — things like the Victory Fund, which encourages LGBT people who are eligible to run for office. It's something that I'm very excited about, because I've been working for years trying to get gay people to become more engaged civically and become more involved in public service. The Victory Fund trains people for office, endorses them and helps them with their campaign."
As for his political goals following graduation, Hernandez said, "Right now, I just want to get through the next year and a half," citing his decision to take summer courses to compensate for classes dropped this semester because of the Giffords tragedy.
Concluded the overwhelmingly composed college student, "I act like a 40-year-old sometimes, but I'm still only 21, so I still have a lot of time to think about what I want to do in the future."
Watch Hernandez' address during a memorial service for the Tucson shooting: