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Phoenix service event draws Bill & Chelsea Clinton, Gabby Giffords

Former president Bill Clinton speaks at a student conference for the Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz. He joined wife Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton for the weekend conference. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Former president Bill Clinton speaks at a student conference for the Clinton Global Initiative University at Arizona State University, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz. He joined wife Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton for the weekend conference. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Bill Clinton said Sunday that “everybody can serve everywhere” at a community service project intended to convert vacant Phoenix lots into urban gardens and spaces for public use.

The former president and his daughter Chelsea joined with former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., at the event wrapping up the Clinton Global Initiative University weekend.

Bill Clinton picked up a shovel and helped volunteers dig an irrigation trench along a community garden on the 15-acre project. He later watched as students painted murals to line the garden’s perimeter.

Vacant lots account for 43 percent of the total land in the city, according to the project’s website.

He noted the land was used by a diverse group of veterans, Native Americans, food providers, students and more than 70 refugee families. “This day of action can remind you that everybody can serve everywhere and our diversity is our greatest strength,” Clinton said.

Clinton said he was excited to participate, and he joked, “I feel like a kid who is going to the carnival for the first time.”

Giffords said she was making progress after surviving an assassination attempt in Tucson in 2011. She said she was “still trying to make the world a better place and you can, too.”

She was seriously injured when a lone gunman opened fire as the lawmaker met with constituents in a shopping mall. Six people died and 13 were wounded in the attack. Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, now lobby for gun control legislation.

The weekend conference was attended by more than 1,000 students who listened to speeches from Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and heard TV host Jimmy Kimmel interview both Clintons.

Hillary Clinton, who’s considering running for president in 2016, told Kimmel on Saturday night that she was “very much concerned” about the direction of the country. The former secretary of state and first lady said she was “obviously thinking about all kinds of decisions” regarding her future.

During their discussion with Kimmel, the Clintons talked about the importance of perseverance. Hillary Clinton said many people give up if they don’t succeed right away, but “that’s often the best time for what you can learn about yourself.”

She noted that her husband lost his first political race. She said she never expected to run for office and then won a U.S. Senate seat representing New York.

“But then I had a big loss which we all remember,” Clinton said, referring to her unsuccessful 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. “You just have to decide what you really care about.”

Earlier Saturday, Bill Clinton urged students to engage in politics and debate issues such as debt reduction, and he offered advice that might also apply to his wife.

“Changing the world is a group enterprise,” the former president said. “There’s no place for any of us in the peanut gallery. We have to be on the field and playing.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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