President Ronald Reagan delivered one of his most powerful speeches on the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. In his speech, Reagan was able to unite the country during a time of extreme heartache and tragedy. Through his exceptional use of language, President Reagan delivered a speech that will forever be remembered for its consoling power.
President Reagan gave this memorable speech on the Challenger on the day of the crash, January 28th, 1986. He had been scheduled to deliver the state of the union address, but due to the unfortunate circumstances, he instead addressed the nation about the failed launch. He first expressed the sorrow he felt over the loss of the seven astronauts before briefly comparing the Challenger to Apollo 1, a failed launch that exploded killing three people about nineteen years ago almost to the day. He goes on to list each of the seven crew member’s names and share his condolences for their families and friends. He then addressed the children that were watching the launch in classrooms across the nation and encouraged America that together, we will move on from this tragedy and that we will continue to explore. Finally, he ends by reminding the audience that that day was the 390th anniversary of the death of explorer Sir Francis Drake and that he too died on his ship. There are incredible figures of speech throughout President Reagan’s entire dialogue, even though it was only a few minutes in length. He was able to create a strong sense of patriotism by using “we” often and phrases such as “This truly is a national loss” (Reagan, 1986). By speaking to the nation in this manor he was able to instill a message of unity from the very beginning and a sense of “we will all get through this together”. By saying, “And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly” (Reagan, 1986), President Reagan was able to emphasize the courage and bravery of the seven crew members that died on The Challenger. By emphasizing this, he again helps the audience identify with the topic therefor stirring their own personal emotions. Later, President Reagan addressed the children; "And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America." Through this, Reagan created an emotional connection with a large majority of our nation’s audience reaching out to children, young adults and parents as well. I was really impressed how Reagan turned this tragedy into somewhat of a motivational speech when he was addressing the schoolchildren. Reagan says things like, “it is all part of taking a chance an expanding man’s horizons” and “the future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave” (Reagan, 1986). These two quotes alone likely motivated many young children to aspire to be an astronaut. When Reagan went on to say, "There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space" he reiterated the fact that life will go on and that America will overcome this tragedy. Reagan also made a wonderful comparison when he related the crew members of The Challenger to Sir Francis Drake. It was a great way to relate a situation of the past to the present thus showing how far we have come in space exploration. It helped the audience make a personal connection with the topic and also created a deeper sense of appreciation of the dedicated crew members. Reagan ended his speech emotionally. “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’ ” (Reagan, 1986). This closing statement is so poetic. It stirs emotion and left the audience with a sense of peace.
Throughout his speech, Reagan makes a few generalizations that inspire the audience to look...
References: Porter, B. F. (2002). Fundamentals of critical thinking. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Reagan, Ronald W. (Jan. 28, 1986). Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation. Speech given instead of the State of the Union. Washington, D.C.
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