Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ronald Reagan’s Challenger Speech Analysis

On January 28th, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded upon takeoff killing astronauts; Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and school teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe. This event was viewed by many, including schoolchildren, who tuned in to watch the takeoff. This unfortunate tragedy called for former President, Ronald Reagan, to address the issue. Reagan answered the call with his famous speech, "Shuttle `Challenger' Disaster Address", which he not only addressed the issue, but he comforted those who viewed it, commemorated the brave astronauts for their service, and encouraged future space quest. Ronald Reagan was candid in delivering the focus of his message, while still exhibiting empathy in his tone.

He shows empathy in many aspects of his demeanor. The first and most noticeable sign of empathy in his speech was when he said, "Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger." He addresses not only himself, but his wife also, in an attempt to bring the speech on a more personal basis. He then says that, "We share this pain with all off the people of our country." He broadens his viewpoint to cover all Americans, by delivering it this way, he paints himself as a leader and also as a person that feels pain. He goes on to talk about the significance of this accident and how we the American people have never had to experience anything like this in the last 19 years. He is candid when he argues that the challenger seven knew what they were getting into; "But they, the challenger seven, were aware of the dangers". He says this, to show that this event was not completely impossible. Later on in his speech when he says, "We're still pioneers" and "But sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery." He is candid in alluding to the idea that this event is not as devastating as it may seem.

Figure 1 Ronald Reagan delivering the "Challenger Speech" Photograph. 28 Jan. 1986 Ronald Reagan Library Web. 4 Oct. 2010

Ronald Reagan states that, "For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do the full impact of this tragedy." He puts himself at the same level as family to show that his sympathy is just as heartfelt as the family of the seven. He goes on to talk about how they, the astronauts, died a brave and courageous death while doing something they love; they died as "pioneers". The nature he used when he expressed his feelings caused him to sound like a chaplain—empathetic yet encouraging. Afterwards, he addresses the youth that were watching; "And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's take-off." He acknowledges them because the youth are the next-generation workers of this country. Also by addressing the schoolchildren, he creates a sense of comfort to his audience.

The main point of his massage was to offer condolences to those affected by the accident, remind us that this is just part of the process of exploration, and to advocate future space quest. He supported this claim when he said, "We'll continue our quest in space." And also when he says, "Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue." He goes on to talk about the connection between Sir Francis Drake and the astronauts, to show that their dedication, even though it led to their death, was not in vain. It was a stepping stone for future exploration. Overall, throughout his whole speech he is empathizing with those affected by this event, while still getting his main message across. He indicates that we are pained because of the lost, we recognize the loss, and we will move on from this event and look on toward the future.

Work Cited

Reagan, Ronald Wilson. "Challenger Speech." White House. 28 Jan. 1983.
American Rhetoric. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.

Fackelman, Mary Anne "Photograph of Ronald Reagan Delivering the Challenger Speech." 28 Jan. 1986 Ronald Reagan Library Web. 4 Oct. 2010

Work Consulted

The British Antarctic Study, et al. "Space Shuttle Challenger." solcomhouse. Ed.
Charles Welch. The Ozone Hole Inc, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 4 Oct. 2010.