Former president Ronald Reagan was a masterful communicator that was confronted with a daunting communication situation immediately after the space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Of all his presidential moments, on this specific day, ns was no hope to hear from my President. I necessary him, his comfort, and his insight. His indigenous came throughout the airwaves favor salve for my soul.

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The shuttle’s start had currently been delay twice, and also the White home was insisting that it launch prior to the State of the Union address, so that took turn off on January 28, 1986. This specific launch was extensively publicized due to the fact that for the very first time a civilian—a teacher called Christa McAuliffe—was traveling into space. The plan was to have actually McAuliffe communicate to students from space. Follow to the new York Times, nearly half of America’s school youngsters aged ripe to thirteen watched the occasion live in their classrooms. ~ a brief seventy-three seconds right into flight, the people was stunned when the shuttle burst right into flames, killing all seven crew members top top board.

President Ronald Reagan cancelled his reserved State that the Union address that evening and also instead handle the nation’s grief. In his book Great Speeches for better Speaking, writer Michael E. Eidenmuller describes the situation: “In addressing the American human being on an occasion of nationwide scope, Reagan would certainly play the function of nationwide eulogist. In that role, he would need to imbue the occasion with life-affirming meaning, praise the deceased, and also manage a gamut that emotions accompanying this unforeseen and also yet unaccounted-for disaster.

As nationwide eulogist, Reagan would need to offer redemptive hope to his audiences, and specifically to those many directly impacted by the disaster. However Reagan would need to be an ext than just a eulogist. That would likewise have to be a U.S. President and also carry it all with due presidential dignity befitting the office and the subject matter.”

The speech succeeded in meeting the emotional needs of five audiences by very closely addressing every segment.


*The quotations within the analyses listed below are from Eidenmuller’s book.



Ladies and also Gentlemen, I’d planned come speak come you tonight to report ~ above the State that the Union, however the occasions of previously today have led me to adjust those plans. Now is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and also I are pained come the main point by the tragedy that the shuttle Challenger. We know we re-publishing this pain with every one of the world of our country. This is important a nationwide loss.

The State the the Union resolve is one annual, constitutionally sanctioned speech delivered like a national progress report— and also is a far-ranging task to reschedule. “Reagan positions self both external the fray together one presiding end it and also as one inside of it who shares its ache reality.”

Nineteen years ago, practically to the day, we lost three astronauts in a devastating accident ~ above the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy prefer this. And perhaps we’ve forget the courage it took because that the crew the the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were conscious of the dangers, but overcame them and also did their work brilliantly. Us mourn 7 heroes: Michael Smith, prick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and also Christa McAuliffe. Us mourn your loss together a nation together.

“Reagan location the tragedy in ~ a larger picture without losing the meaning of the existing tragedy.” that names each crew member and praises castle for your courage. To further control our emotions, Reagan again calls united state to national mourning, and also establishes the major audience together the collective mourners.

For the households of the seven, us cannot bear, together you do, the full influence of this tragedy. However we feeling the loss, and also we’re thinking around you so very much. Your loved ones to be daring and brave, and they had actually that distinct grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it v joy.” They had actually a hunger to discover the universe and discover that truths. Lock wished come serve, and also they did. Castle served every one of us.

Reagan narrows his focus to the very first and most affected sub-audience: the families of the fallen. The acknowledges the inappropriateness of suggesting how they should feel and also offers prayer they have the right to take organize of v words favor “daring,” “brave,” “special grace,” and also “special spirit.”

We’ve grown offered to wonders in this century. It’s difficult to dazzle us. However for twenty-five years the united States room program has actually been doing just that. We’ve grown provided to the idea that space, and, maybe we forget that we’ve only simply begun. We’re quiet pioneers. They, the members that the Challenger crew, to be pioneers.

Reagan climate draws attention earlier to the basic audience’s interest in the larger scientific story. He climate envisions the crew’s location in history as transcending scientific research altogether through calling lock pioneers. “The term ‘pioneer’ cloaks castle in a mythical covering, one dating earlier to our nation’s earliest ventures.” The astronauts’ fatality is depicted as a reasonable outcome of their endeavors.

And I desire to to speak something to the schoolchildren the America who were the town hall the live coverage the the shuttle’s take-off. I know it’s hard to understand, yet sometimes ache things prefer this happen. It’s all component of the procedure of exploration and also discovery. It’s all component of acquisition a chance and also expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong come the fainthearted; the belongs come the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us right into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

Reagan’s next sub-audience is the institution children—an approximated five million—among whom are the college student of Christa McAuliffe’s class and also school. “Reagan momentarily through the tone of one empathizing parental which is difficult to perform while continuing to be ‘presidential’ however Reagan carries that well.”

I’ve always had great faith in and respect because that our room program. And also what happened today go nothing come diminish it. We don’t hide our room program. We don’t save secrets and also cover things up. We execute it all up front and in public. That’s the method freedom is, and also we wouldn’t change it for a minute.We’ll continue our pursuit in space. There will certainly be an ext shuttle flights and much more shuttle crews and, yes, much more volunteers, much more civilians, much more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue

Here, Reagan the national eulogist hands off to Reagan the U.S. President. This passage contains the only political explain in the resolve and is targeted at the Soviet Union. He assaults the secrecy bordering their failures which had actually irked American researchers who knew that shared expertise was the best means to certain the stability and safety of space programs.

I want to add that ns wish I can talk come every man and woman who works for NASA, or who operated on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and also professionalism have actually moved and also impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. Us share it.”

In this direct address to NASA, Reagan provides needed encouragement, and also then turns back again to connect to the whole audience by speak “we share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On now three hundred and ninety year ago, the great explorer teacher Francis Drake passed away aboard ship off the coastline of Panama. In his life time the good frontiers were the oceans, and also a historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and also was hidden in it.” Well, today, we can say that the Challenger crew: their dedication was, choose Drake’s, complete.The crew that the space shuttle Challenger honored united state by the path in which they lived their lives. Us will never forget them, nor the last time we witnessed them, this morning, as they all set for their journey and waved goodbye and also “slipped the surly bond of earth” come “touch the confront of God.”Thank you.

In closing, Reagan create an eloquent and poetic moment. It records the mythological sentiment bordering humanity’s unending pursuit to fix the mysteries that the unknown. The phrase “touch the face of God”, was taken native a poem entitled “High Flight” written by john Magee, one American aviator in WWII. Magee was motivated to write the city while climbing come 33,000 feet in his Spitfire. It continues to be in the Library of congress today.

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President Reagan’s ability to credibly move in and also out of various roles for different audience segments to be a big part that what made that The an excellent Communicator. The speech lasted just four short minutes, but it resonated on plenty of levels with the American people—myself included.