Ronald Reagan Challenger Speech Analysis

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On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle “The Challenger” broke up 73 seconds after liftoff, and all seven crew members on board were killed. Almost immediately, Ronald Reagan had been given the task to give a speech that would put the nation at ease. On the same day at 5 p.m., he sat down in the Oval Office at the White House and gave his speech. His address was broadcast live on nationwide radio and television. Reagan's audience consisted of people of all ages and different races, but some points in his speech were directly addressed to the families of the crew members. In this speech, Reagan acknowledges the heroism of the crew while mourning with their families. Although he was given little time to prepare the speech, it turned out to be very effective.

His hook indicated that he was just as surprised by this tragedy as anyone else in the audience. This made it easier for not only him to empathize with the audience, but it made it easier for the audience to empathize with him. Ronald Reagen had to have a sense of confidence, emotional steadiness, and steadfastness all at the same time. The most effective way he could do this was through his careful use of tone. His speech had a firmness to it that helped restore balance to the audience. Reagan used words like “daring, “brave”, and “faith”, which was somewhat comforting to the audience.

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In his speech, Reagan used pathos when responding to the “heightened emotions of a country in a crisis”. When acknowledging that seven people lost their lives in this tragic accident, he discusses it candidly and calmly. Instead of dwelling on the misfortune, he redirects the emotional focus onto a celebration of the astronauts' lives. He also uses a bit of ethos by “highlighting the admirable characters of each crew member and reflecting on their virtues”.

The length of the speech was very short, taking only four minutes to complete. But although it was short and sweet, it was very effective. The structure of the speech was made to be very straightforward. It had small paragraphs that consisted of small sentences almost the whole way through. “The elaborate language of the final line is made to stand out in contrast to the short sentences and candid vocabulary of the preceding text.” Reagan was able to deliver this speech effectively, clearly, and calmly with little preparation. His attentive and moving explanation further enhanced the speech's accessibility and easily made this speech one of his most powerful speeches during his presidency.

President Reagan wrapped up his speech with a poem. His poetic final sentence gives an emotional goodbye to the lost astronauts. It secured the memory of their passing and the success and effectiveness of the speech itself. Throughout this speech, Reagan was not talking about dead people, he was talking about American heroes. He attempts to make sense of this pain by viewing their deaths from a historical view. This provided a bigger picture of human discovery and peril, which the crew members on “The Challenger” were an important part of. Overall, the speech proved to be very effective for the mourning families of the crew members and the entire nation.

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Ronald Reagan Challenger Speech Analysis. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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