Daniel Hernandez, the hero intern credited with helping to save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after last month's tragic shootings in Tucson, Ariz., was honored today in Chicago.
At the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute's annual conference, the modest Hernandez was applauded for his heroism when he rushed to action just after Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was shot in the head on Jan. 8.
The 21-year-old University of Arizona junior, who has become something of a role model in the Hispanic community, used the occasion to condemn hateful speech in politics and call for an end to caustic discourse.
"I now have a platform and I'm using that to encourage a more engaged, younger populus but also a more civilized political discourse, because that's one of the things that we lack," Hernandez said.
"For too long we've been focusing on destructive political discourse instead of constructive political discourse," he added.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who received a standing ovation at the conference for his work helping pass health care reform, spoke on the shift in the tone of political discourse.
"In the United States Senate, since the tragedy in Tucson, things have changed. The environment is better -- not dramatically better -- but better," Durbin said.
Since his heroic snap to action in Tucson, Hernandez has been honored across the country. He was singled out when he was a guest of honor at President Obama's State of the Union address last month.
Hernandez also visited New York's city hall last month to support Mayor Michael Bloomberg's group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.