The Rhetoric of Comfort in Ronald Reagan’s “Challenger Speech”

Ronald Reagan’s “Challenger Speech” was an important speech that both comforted and benefited the United States. He did this by relating to his audience and also adoring comfort and closure to the families that lost someone. “Former President Ronald Reagan was a masterful communicator who was faced with a daunting communication situation immediately after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster” (Duarte, N. (2018). Presidents’ Day: Remembering Ronald Reagan).

This shows that when Ronald Reagan speaks he was really good at communicating with his audience. He would try his best to relate with the audience by also staying empathetic. “When Reagen discusses the space shuttle challenger explosion that occurred on January 28, 1986, he uses biographical information, and news” (Ronald Reagan Challenger Speech Analysis). It is important when delivering a speech that is this important to use biographical information. This is because, when he is trying to give the audience information he wants to make sure he gives the right information and uses all the information possible.

These quotes talk about how Ronald Reagan was a good communicator and also how well he delivered the speech and with a calm and empathetic tone to address the american people. What ended up coming out of the Challenger Speech was that the speech honored the death of the seven people that died. This speech was a way to acknowledge the death but also address the nation. “For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This shows that Ronald Reagan was bringing light to the families that lost someone and saying that this was a hard loss and tragedy not just for them but also for the nation.

“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). After this tragedy Ronald Reagan talked about how we will never forget what these people have done and what they have served to help the nation. These people that were lost put so much hard work into this project and their work will never be forgotten. This shows that the speech honored the death of the seven people that died. Also that this speech offered comfort to the families and friends of the people that were lost. Also that there was comfort given to the nation and that the sacrifices that these people made will never be forgotten.

This speech was an important speech for the American people. It was also important in both the public, the media and also within the paper. “Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This shows that this event was a tragic event to hit the nation. During this Ronald Reagan and his wife (Nancy Reagan) showed that they were also mourning with the nation by saying “Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger”. This involves the media because this speech was broadcasted on tv. This is important because people from all over the nation could watch this speech and also learn about what occurred during the challenger.

“We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This is important because, when Ronald Reagan announced the names of the people that died he brought justice to not just the people but also to the families and friends that lost their loved ones. He also used the newspapers and other types of media during this time. This is because this speech was an address to the nation so all of the big named newspapers and other types of media covered this speech and put it out so that it could reach more people. This is important so that his message that he was saying in his speech could reach as many people as possible. This is an important speech to be covered in both the public, the media and also within the paper.

One example that Ronald Reagan used to get his audience’s attention was the use of Allusion. “Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This shows that he uses allusion in his speech because allusion is an indirect or passing reference. So in this he is referring to Sir Francis Drake. Also stated in Ronald Reagan’s speech he says “On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This again shows how when Ronals Reagan was talking about the Challenger disaster he was linking it to the past event, Sir Francis Drake.

He speaks about this one more time when he says “Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). Again he is speaking about Sir Francis Drake’s death. This is important in Ronald Reagan’s speech because he uses this rhetorical device to capture the audience by also relating the challenger to a past event that took place.

Another way Ronald Reagen tries to use rhetorical devices to capture his audience is by using both Logos and Pathos. “But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This shows that he used Pathos because by saying the names of the seven victims of this incident he is appealing to the audience’s emotions in order to evoke feelings. This is because he wants everyone to know the names of the people that died and also the sacrifice that they made to make the challenger happen.

Another example of when Ronald Reagan uses pathos is when he says “Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This is an example of pathos because he wants everyone to know that he and his wife are both upset and pained with this tragedy that took place. “I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This is an example of logos because he reminds the audience that the crew was doing their jobs as astronauts. Ronald Reagen tries to use rhetorical devices to capture his audience by using both Logos and Pathos. This is important when giving a speech that is this important.

Another way Ronald Reagen tries to use rhetorical devices to capture his audience is by using Repetition. Examples where he uses repetition in his speech is when he says “More volunteers ,more civilians, more teachers”, “We’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle”, and “We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). These all fall under the idea of repetition because he uses multiple words that are the same throughout his speech, this is because he wants his audience to remember the words that he uses throughout his speech. This is important when giving a speech because repetition helps in capturing the audience and getting his point across more clearly.

What came from this speech was that in the speech Ronald Reagan talked about how as a nation they could grieve together the losses that happened during this time. Also he wanted to use what happened to help the nation improve the space program even more. “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986).

This shows that Regan was addressing the loss of the seven people that were lost during this time. “We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This is important because Ronald Reagan is relying to show sympathy and show that the nation is mourning throughout the speech that he is given. He is also showing that these people were really important to the nation and that this is a national loss. “We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue” (President Ronald W. Reagan, Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986). This is important because it shows that even though there was a tragedy that was this big, the nation still wants to continue to improve their space program and also just improve as a nation. This explains why Ronald Reagan’s “Challenger Speech” was an important speech that both comforted and benefited the United States.

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